Soft lights beckon – dance when you can

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The lights were soft, twinkling purple and green around the plastic poster of a jukebox mounted on a screen in the corner. White Christmas lights sparkled on the floor beneath the picture of a hot rod with the words “Rock and Roll” printed above it.

Tables covered in red plastic cloths lined the walls and crepe paper streamers hung at the windows. In that soft glow, couples danced, ladies in poodle skirts, peddle pushers, bobby socks and white Keds or saddle oxfords. The guys, wearing jeans with turned-up cuffs, plaid button-down-collar shirts or tee shirts with the sleeves rolled up, swayed with their sweethearts.

Music from another time played and grownups became teenagers again. Certain songs stirred memories, bringing laughter or shy smiles as we recalled the days when we heard the tunes on the radio.

For a few hours, friends celebrating the birthdays of two special people stepped back into a more innocent time before marriages, children, careers, mortgages and passing years introduced us to adulthood.

It was fun to hear “Where the Boys Are” or “Surfer Girl” playing and remember when we knew every word and maybe sang along while we laughed and sipped cherry cokes. When the limbo song played, some of us tried to inch our way under the broom stick, and Chubby Checker‘s twist brought almost everyone to the dance floor.

Sunday as I cleaned up the remains of Saturday night’s “sock hop,” I was reminded why I always wanted to be on the decoration committee and not the cleanup crew. I carefully folded the posters and packed away the lights, keeping everything together for the possibility of another celebration.

On Monday, as I looked at pictures from the party that a friend posted on Facebook, I saw another post that grabbed my attention. It also took me back to high school, but with those memories came sadness.

The message asked for prayers for the family of Roger Marler. It said he passed away over the weekend, leaving this world just after celebrating his 64th birthday in January. All I could think of was Roger’s smile and of how much he meant to the Opp High School Class of 1970.

He was class president and one of the smartest people I knew. He was also funny and kind and cute.

Like often happens in life, we lost touch after graduation as classmates scattered in all directions. A few years ago, we reconnected on Facebook and we sent each other birthday greetings.

As I flipped through my 1970 Opptimist looking at his picture and the photos of all of the people who traveled through those high school years with me, I felt so blessed to know each one of them. And, I felt such sadness looking into the faces of those who are no longer here.

It seemed strange to think that while I was dancing with friends, celebrating and reminiscing , my friend was slowly slipping away. Then as sadness threatened to overtake me and send me traveling down that long dark road of “what used to be” something occurred to me.

The best way to honor each of the precious friends who are gone is to live every minute, every breath we have left to the fullest. Share joyful experiences with the people we care about who care about us in return.

Plan sock hops and class reunions and get togethers and family times. Don’t waste an opportunity to feel alive. Never miss a chance to laugh, to hug and to love. Roger would probably say to the remaining members of the OHS Class of 1970, “Dance every chance you get.”

So, the next time the glow of soft light surrounds me and I hear the Beach Boys singing, “Do You Wanna to Dance,” I’m going to answer yes. And I’ll say a prayer of gratitude as I get up and dance my heart out for all the sweet spirits, like Roger, who will surely be dancing right along with me.


Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.