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The last dance (06/08/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
She sees the windows dancing. A silenced observer looks back in time, to an early morning sun as it floods into an awakening kitchen. A young mother goes through motions of daily routine, stirring eggs and turning bacon in cast iron pans. One by one, neatly dressed children sit at a large dinette, their lips mouthing inaudible conversation.

The shadow of a tall man can be seen removing soiled work boots at the back door and sauntering over to take his place at the family table. His chores at milking time had nudged him from early morning slumber. This communion, a sending forth, folds their hands as each head humbly bows and voices meld in simple prayer.

At the ebbing of her recall, the windows turn vacant. They all went their separate ways each day. All she has are memories now, of the children's school years, how they returned home promptly for afternoon chores, unable to go out for sports. Good kids. The mother worked at a local factory to make ends meet"¦the vivacious head-turner she once was is a stranger to her now.

She sees shimmering, bubbling water dance, skipping stones and casting lines where summer picnics brought neighbors together. On those awkward adolescent occasions, a boy and a girl with starlight in their eyes would slip away to that confusing place where yearning begins to seethe, the inception of emotions that both delight and batter hearts as lives wear on.

She can smell and envision the borderline peony bushes of deep mauve and delicate pink dancing in morning's haze. One of the girls would bring in choice blooms, check for ants, and put them in a rose bowl on the dining room buffet.

Saturdays climaxed on a rollicking note. After a favorite supper of cornbread and chili or pigs in a blanket, and sometimes homemade ice cream, they all took baths in preparation for Sunday morning church services while Dad did the milking. Sitting together in front of their snowy-screened RCA television set, serenaded by the Hit Parade and the Lawrence Welk Show, was the highlight of another busy week. She sees moonlit windows dance, in her nostalgic reverie.

On the best of nights, the mom and daddy danced, their cheeks blazing with delight, as the children stomped their feet and clapped in time to the "Beer Barrel Polka"¯

and "The Ping-Pong Polka."¯ Big sister showed brother how to foxtrot to "Little Brown Jug"¯ and the little ones hopped around the living room, exploding with innocent mischief.

Sunday mornings it was understood that the boys would do their chores early and the girls would help their mother with breakfast as well as preparations for Sunday dinner, which was always a feast with two desserts. Often friends, family members, and the minister and his wife were welcomed guests at the oak dining room table, with extra boards retrieved from the spare room. For company, her mother's china was carefully fetched from a built-in hutch.

She sees family silhouettes through colored glass. Church services meant wearing the dress clothes, laundered and pressed, laid out by each bed. No child (or husband) faked illness, tried to beg off, or ran to hide in the abandoned, black, '49 Ford pickup behind the chicken coop.

Since her world became too small, familiar windows dance the dance only in vague daydreams. Long ago the blinds had been pulled shut on the ramshackle shell, now abandoned. In moonlit corridors of her reminiscence, the old home place rests handsomely as ever against the rural horizon.

The young mother and wife she had been returns briefly in thought, to scraps of a life she has lost touch with. Her space holds little more than necessities today, a 10 X 12 room in the local nursing home, where windows never dance.

Each afternoon she longs for cheery voices of the children coming home from school. Her world too small for anything but daydreams, she waits"¦listening for the music to begin.

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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