In the fall of 1989, when I was weeks away from turning twelve, my parents hauled me off to Europe to see the sights and to see relatives. It was a fun trip, though my dad got us lost in France. We visited one of my grand aunts who lived in Strasburg. We wandered off into Germany to visit my mom’s cousin, a kindly man. He was old enough that we called him Uncle though there wasn’t that relationship.
He was a crafty politician who respected tradition. He taught me how to waltz, whirling me around the floor in time to Strauss’s Blue Danube. He was seventy-seven then. He was sweet to me. And I treasure the memory.
Knowing how to waltz proved useful.
The next year I was moved ahead several grades. And I met a boy. My sister found him annoying (though she likes him now.) And she was right. He was annoying. But I liked him. He was tall and lanky, blue eyed and sandy haired. He talked with a funny accent, though today it’s very muted unless he wishes to put it back into his voice.
There was an age difference. Five years worth. But we grew fond of each other. He liked my mom. She was his English teacher, and he chatted her up. She was a good listener; many students did that. He didn’t know she was my mom, and told her that he liked me but that he thought I was maybe young. Maybe! Ha. Mother told him who I was and exactly how old I was. …
But come time for the school’s formal dance, he asked my mother if he could take me. She was one of the chaperones. She said yes but added daunting restrictions. Would you ride to a dance with your date’s mother? (Insert snicker here.) All the chaperones (Teachers and Principal, all of whom I knew since I was a toddler) watched us like hawks. And a few students tormented this young man for dating the ‘little girl.’ (I was. I’d reached my full height of four feet, ten inches that year. And though I’ve changed shape, adding some bumps and curves, I’ve never grown higher.)
So, with me in my blue gown and he in his yellow tux, we danced to Blue Danube. There is a video of that locked away in my mother’s old cedar chest. No you can’t see it! But in the video you can see people giving us the floor and watching. I fell in love to the Blue Danube. Like turned to something more. Eventually we married and made babies. I still like him. I love him still. And, yes, he’s still annoying.