We had just moved to an exclusive community on the north shore of Chicago. My step-father, mom and I. I hadn’t made any friends yet and I tagged along with my mom on many of her social outings as she got to know others in the community. There was the church outing to the Art Institute – we took a giant air conditioned bus and ate lunch at a restaurant. There was an archeological dig weekend at Koster, down in the southern most tip of IL. And there was the Hula dance group I participated in…
Each week, 6 or 7 white, middle-aged women from my mom’s church would meet in a woman’s basement (Dorothy) and try our best to imitate the beautiful Hawaiian dancers we saw on the posters hanging on the walls. I would figure 8 my non-existent hips and imitate our leader who smiled coquettishly in the mirror – our pretend audience. Offering up our plastic flower leis as invitation, swaying our grass skirts to imitate the trade winds.
The class culminated in a performance for senior citizens at the local community center. With acute adolescent self-consciousness I did my best to stay in the back (which was hard because there were only 8 of us!)
Much to my chagrin, a photo of the event was published in the weekly town newspaper – a bunch of women and me in our costumes.
Fast Forward 43 Years
Teaching my 5 year olds last week. We are sitting in circle and talking about Hawaii. Someone mentions hula dancing. “You don’t know how to do that!” one kid says in a snarky voice. “Oh yes I do!” I shoot back. “Wanna see?” I say as one part of myself looks down from the ceiling in dismay. And just like that…I am googling Song of Old Hawaii and playing it on my speaker. The strings start and it all comes back to me. My arms reach up to mimic the heavens, my fingers make the stars. My hips start to sway. I dance. I sing. The audience is rapt. Riveted.