Ann came to the center, max's place, almost every friday and saturday night. i met ann when she was in her late thirties, i think. ann had down syndrome, so it was difficult to know her chronological age. her spirit though was vivid and boisterous. we often describe that as being "young." she had a short bob of blonde and gray hair with bright blue eyes that were magnified by thick glasses. her eyes darted back and forth, faster when she got excited.
ann was consistent in many things. she always had her nails painted. usually pink or purple. she wore jewelry with pride. she hated potluck dinners at the center- i share this feeling too. and she was always ecstatic to see me. and i her.
she would greet me with a smile and exclaim "nancy!" as she hugged me. then she would launch into a description of what she was most excited about in that moment. it was often something about her family. usually it was good news- sometimes not. ann lived with her sister and her family. there were children and cousins and friends about ann all the time it seemed.
when the center started to have karate classes, ann was the star student. she took it seriously and would show off her skills to anyone who asked. she always sang great old songs for karaoke even when she didn't know all the words. she liked to play solitaire. she always won and she would cheer for herself each time. and she loved to dance.
there's this magic thing that happens in bellingham once a month that most "normal" folks have no idea about. it's called a spin dance. maybe i've told you about the first time i went? it was halloween and i walked into an auditorium of over 200 people in costume, dancing and singing...all with some type of disability. it will always be one of my fondest memories of my life. i don't think i can do justice to explaining it right now- why it was life changing for me. you might have to go to one for yourself to understand it.
ann came to the dances dressed to the nines. she wore dresses and long necklaces. some folks came to visit, some for the cookies, ann came to dance. you could find her close to the stage surrounded by her friends. i would saddle up to her several times during the night to dance with her. when she noticed me she'd shout something i couldn't hear and i'd nod and smile. she often would proudly point out to me the man she was dancing with.
when ann died i was very sad about it. i had stopped working at the center for a while by then and i searched my memories for the last time i had seen her. it was at the valentine's spin dance. she was wearing a purple dress and introduced me to her boyfriend, who was maybe 20. i remember dancing next to her. i can still see her with her hands up in the air, shaking up the oxygen above her short body. her hips are bouncing side to side. her face is exploding in pure delight and joyful celebration. i deeply treasure this imagine of her.
there are things i don't do well in life. lessons i refuse to learn. traps i set for myself and then stumble into dumbfounded and then look for someone to blame. i can't seem to keep my house clean, can't seem to find things when i need them most... but i can dance.
i dance with abandon, with fierceness, with passion, with rage, with gentle sways and fitful stomps.
i dance until my body is broken and rebuilt.
i dance until my soul is jiggled loose from my ego's grip.
i dance until i moan, laugh, cry, breath.
i dance in my kitchen to make my baby stop fussing.
i dance in a steamy room full of old friends i have never met.
and when i die, hopefully many, many years from now- as an old woman, i want the imagine that my friends and family treasure of me to be one of dancing.
see me with my face uplifted toward the ceiling
that has given way to blue skies
arms stretched past the clouds
my smile drinking in the rainbows in every warm drop of rain
feet jumping and skittering to my heartbeat
and if you are sad, dance that for me
and know that i have danced that grief too
through dance i have found many treasures
i have played games with myself
i have won
i have cheered.