Milwaukee. The 90-mile-away city that we never visit. But there we were for the wedding of one of Julia’s long time therapists who, years after she left Madison, we still miss. A pretty wedding at the Milwaukee Yacht Club on a blue skied sunny fall day. The chilly air was warmed by a sun enough to make the outdoor ceremony with dock and lake view utterly pleasant to sit through. Although we knew no one but the bride, Julia was welcomed like a cousin. Ever generous, Michelle has for years shared Julia stories with her family, roommates and fellow marching band members. And that eased our way into the party. Julia exchanged news about Sonic and Mario with many willing listeners. And after dinner, Julia wanted to dance and found willing partners.
And just to be clear, she wanted to dance but would not be seen with me on the dance floor. I know, I know, that is so 15. Great, age appropriate behavior when it is least desired.
Why is it so hard to explain to my girl that I have been regarded as quite a decent dancer? My dancing karma must be off.
When I was a kid, our family went to Ukrainian outdoor dances and big, music ladened Ukrainian weddings. The men–my father, uncle, and family friends–did not dance. Oh, maybe a slow dance once an evening but for most of the night’s the rolling polkas and cha-cha’s and jitterbugs and foxtrots were addressed by women together. And, as soon as we were able, with their daughters. I was a quick physical learner, a good follower and light on my feet. I was in high demand. Passed around from woman to woman. Even asked to dance by the few church choir men who were not shy on the dance floor. Mid-childhood, I had a partner in crime who was also a ferocious polka dancer. At a church picnic with an open on all sides dance floor, we whirled around until we were dizzy and lost our parents’ eyes with a first taste of the independent life.
And so, I assumed from all that youthful twirling that dancing would continue as it had for my maternal line. I also assumed, quite wrongly, that my life partner would squire me around a dance floor. And there were no church dances for unchurched folks and few polka laden weddings. There were some times to be on the dance floor with girlfriends and my Cheshire, but a partner’s reluctance to get on the dance floor makes staying until someone wants to roll up that floor difficult.
In my mind, I am still that whirling child, and Julia is a child of her own mind. She would rather wander a gyrating dance floor alone in search of a partner than be seen anywhere near her hovering mother. Oh, the shame of it! And on Saturday, I became too shy to wander like she was doing and retreated to the sidelines. Julia danced with little kids, the bride and as many relatives and friends as would have her. She is not fluid in her movement but she compensates with enthusiasm. Finally, finally, finally, after I told her only one more song, she took pity on me and became my partner.
And I wasn’t so bad. And my dreams that night were full of twirling in the arms of someone who could lead with a light hand in the small of my back. Would to that just one more time.
We stayed the night in Milwaukee at the Ambassador Hotel. An old fashion hotel that has been renovated to capture the 40’s. A comfortable bed, a deep bath tub, but thin walls that allowed the comings and goings of other guests and the music from a downstairs party to disturb us some. Julia complained but her dancing feet needed rest and all was well.
Brunch was at the Cafe at the Plaza, another old hotel. The lemon poppy seed pancakes so good that I need to figure out a recipe. There were a number of small recessed alcoves where breakfast or lunch could be eaten with less external stimulation. Driving a very small part of the city, it appear spread out much like Indianapolis with space around old buildings but the all over look favors Chicago over an east coast city and I wanted to know more about the architectural history. The city was also empty on a sunny Sunday which made driving and parking very easy.
The general plan for the day was a visit to Discovery World, a science and technology museum which includes an aquarium, and then to the art museum next door, but Julia indulged in more than one of the museum crafts and hours later we were still at Discovery World. It was big enough and diverse enough for most of a day. One caveat, at least for us, was that in the Aquarium, which is in actually a museum about water plus some fish, there were two demonstrations of thunder storms complete with unpredictable big noise! Ear plugs helped but a few years ago, such noise would have cut our day very short.
I thought that this was to be our first time at Discovery World, but as we walked down the main hall headed for the reception desk, it came flooding back. Julia, David and I had visited during that fall we waited for his new heart. We could not travel far-we had to stay within 2 hours of the hospital-and it was time to explore Milwaukee. I had not remembered. Absolutely nothing before we entered the museum on Sunday. This is the second time in the last few weeks that I realized a forgetting within months of when David died. What else am I forgetting? Did I forget? It sends chills up my back each time something comes to light reminding me how both fragile and resilient this brain organ is. This memory losing offers protection to the wounded mind and heart, but is it some blanket forgetting. What of those bits that never return? I might have solved the secrets of the universe, found the answer to the why of our lives, and . . . well, perhaps those things are waiting for me to find again and it is as simple as walking into a museum.