Your mama don’t dance

It was a simpler time back in the early 1970s. Or maybe that’s not true. Maybe it was just a different time. And in many ways it couldn’t have been a more different time than today. At least by then we were ‘allowed’ to wear pants to school, the boys having long moved on to wearing jeans 24/7 without the bat of an eye from the principal. Girls, of course, had to pass through several more arbitrary hoops on the way to denim rights before finally earning that honour. Let me correct my earlier statement. Maybe it wasn’t that different a time.

Being able to wear pants did offer some small respite on the walk back and forth to school in the dead of winter, but even so, by the time we got to Birch Street any vestige of insulation in boots, mitts or coats was pretty much useless, so being invited in for tea at the Dixon’s was a welcome oasis. There was always a pot of tea waiting on the back of the stove, as tannic and viscous as crude oil.

If Mrs. Dixon wasn’t on duty at the hospital, she was sitting at the kitchen table, busy with the trifecta of simultaneously smoking, knitting and soaking her bunions in a hot water foot bath. The kitchen was the living room, family room, dining room, homework room, and after school hangout. With six kids, the room that might have been the dining room was much too valuable real estate to be relegated to eating. And the living room was, of course, for company.

Mrs. Dixon was remarkably calm for someone with six kids and, at any given moment, about four or five dogs. Because it wasn’t enough to work the kinds of shifts required to shepherd other people’s children into the world, put three square meals on the table every day, and wrestle with mounds of laundry, she also bred Yorkshire terriers. And by the way, she barely topped five feet tall and if the scale nudged as far as 100 pounds that must have been on a day when she had actually stopped to have a bite to eat of toast along with her tea.

I don’t remember what was up with the dancing (or lack there of). But I definitely recall that Mrs. Dixon Did. Not. Dance. She couldn’t have objected to the principle of dancing because I don’t think the Pope had a problem with it. Perhaps dancing was such a frivolous thing that she couldn’t comprehend anyone possibly having time for it. And you can certainly understand why she didn’t.

Mrs. Dixon died this week and with her passing and others of her generation goes the last remaining shards of memory of when nurses wore pressed white dresses and proper nurse’s caps. When people made do or did without. And when women made everything in life seem so easy: Like a duck gliding serenely on the surface of the water, those feet were moving madly to keep everything afloat. If only we had known.

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