This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending a family reunion in York, PA. Actually, the “family reunion” was the Big Swing Thing, a celebration of swing music and dancing at the Valencia Ballroom, and the only person there to whom I am genetically related is our daughter Sarah, who covered the event for ABC27 out of Harrisburg.
Sixteen people—brothers and sisters to me—from Winchester, VA (and another sister from Annapolis, MD who aligns herself with the Shenandoah wing of the family) were introduced to cousins from Pennsylvania. Our Lindy-hoppin’, show-stoppin’ cousins from Hagerstown, MD were also in attendance and put on a performance of their own during the traditional jam that occurs at most swing dances.
Lest you think I’m merely using
poetic license, I will tell you that dancers share a bond that is as strong as genetics; stronger in many cases. The interesting thing is that the dancing is the physical form which the bond takes, another name for which is joy. There is the joy of the movement, of the leading and following; there is the joy of learning that movement and creating new movement; there are the joyful sounds of the music and the laughter; there is the joy of holding one another in frame and hugging hello and embracing good-bye. There’s the joy of looking across the ballroom and seeing the same people at 10 o’clock at night who were also there at 10 o’clock in the morning and thinking, They’re hardcore just like we are!
The joy of being welcomed at 5:40—when the doors weren’t supposed to be officially opened until 6:30—and then to turn around at 5:41 and see my Annapolis sister running towards me. (Yes, we were # 1 and #1a, I am quite proud to say.)
I felt the joy acutely at this year’s Big Swing Thing, which began on Friday night, six weeks to the day after I was released from the hospital for robotic mitral valve repair. Indeed, when the surgeon asked me what was going on in my life which he needed to consider when arranging the surgery date, my immediate response was, “You may laugh at this, but this there’s this thing at the end of April that I have to get to. And I have to participate once I’m there.” Dr. Vinay Badhwar turned to one of his most able assistants and said, “Make this happen in March.”
I don’t believe that Dr. Badhwar is a dancer, but he clearly understands the effect that joy has on one’s heart. A snip here and one titanium ring later, and I was able to dance16 hours in a 28 hour stretch. (“In,” not every minute of every hour, although several of those hours were non-stop!)
I mention this, not to make this entry about me, but as a way to personalize the joy that everyone there felt. The dancers, musicians, performers and those wonderful folks who put a tremendous amount of time and effort into setting up and cleaning up all have their stories of joy. Indeed, one of my Winchester brothers has a health story similar to mine and at one point we agreed that we were very happy to be there given the events of the past year. I’m sure that there are others who found themselves looking around that beautiful ballroom experiencing the sheer joy of just being there.
So, to my family from Quakertown, Landale, and York, to Annapolis, Berryville, Winchester, and Hagerstown, here’s to the next reunion.