Dance Granny

...i've been run out of the dance academy's lobby by a dance granny--you know the type: the over fifty crowd who take care of their grandkids while their eighteen-year-old children are studying for the GED and/or working part-time at arby's...this dance granny isn't particularly haggard, but she has a washed-out look about her that, on my first visit, i pitied...i generally feel sorry for her type--raising her second set of kids because the abstinence only sex education provided by the local high school just didn't take...but this woman soon lost all pity i could possibly muster for her...

...dance granny is an authority on everything from shrimp farmed in china to the latest illegal immigration laws...i wouldn't even have noticed she was in the room if she didn't jump into the middle of the conversations going on around her...today, it's the georgia coast...a mom mentions to another mom next to her that her family is vacationing at tybee island this year...something she's just mentioned in passing...polite conversation you might have with an acquaintance you sit next to each saturday morning for an hour or so while your children dance together behind closed doors...she's not bragging...she mentions it as if she's talking about the weather...they've rented an RV and are going to spend a week at the beach...next week, we all will have forgotten this point, as it's not important to us...what's important are the things we're going to be doing after this hour of limbo i call waiting-for-my-kid's-class-to-end-so-i-can-be-normal-again...

...sure everyone in the lobby can hear everyone else...the room's the size of a jail cell...it even boasts a worn television set in the corner, broadcasting the dancing going on behind the walls...it reminds me of scenes from television crime dramas--the little areas off the interrogation rooms where the detectives wait to catch the criminals in a lie...suddenly, i'm sweating like i'm guilty of something...i shift in my place on the hard wooden bench against the wall and try to take my mind off the idea that this is some sort of line up...

...dance granny hears the word "beach" and she's off to the races..."We prefer the gulf to the coast, my family. We go down there a few times a year.  It's good swimming.  Warm."

...the mom looks around, unsure at first if the comment is directed at her...when she sees that it is, she says, "We've done that before, but the gulf doesn't have shallow water for our kids.  We really--"

...dance granny cuts her off: "The water is deep.  It's not as cold as the coast though, so there's that going for it.  Of course, when the oil spilled we missed a year, but we've gone three times since then, we have a little cabin down there.  My daughter's husband and his family have it.  They're from Alabama.  Course, my daughter's from here in middle Georgia, but she's lived so long over there she has that deep drawl now.  I tell people there's three Gerogias--the mountain people, the middle, and the coast. They don't hardly believe me unless they hear it for themselves."

...she stops for a breath...by then the room has gone completely silent because she has grown louder with each new word...i glance around, and notice no one is looking at her, not even the mom who's vacationing in the RV...a dozen set of eyes are not looking in dance granny's direction...the room grows heavy, as if the ceiling were dropping...as if dance granny's voice has triggered a booby trap...

...i turn to the television in the corner, eye my daughter's teachers putting all the little ones in a circle...my daughter is watching, mimicking the dance steps as i've told her to do...a few of the other girls are simply spinning around, unfocused...why are their parents, their grandparents, spending money for these classes if the kids aren't even enjoying it?

...a dad walks in, his smart phone in hand...he stands next to a woman who is so tiny, if she'd been wearing a leotard i would've mistaken her for a student..."Is that the new iPhone?" she asks, nearly to herself...she glances in dance granny's direction...but it's too late...the acoustics in the lobby are good and her words ricochet around before landing right in dance granny's ears...

...the dad nods and opens his mouth to speak, but granny is on the move...she's out of her seat, her own phone in hand, taking two steps until she's encroached on dad's personal space...to no one in particular she says, "My son got me this new phone and I still can't figure it out.  I haven't been able to check my email."

...i shudder, thinking of the type of mail this woman sends out--those chain mail warnings, a series of pictures of cats dressed in formal attire, a long message encouraging the reader to make a wish and then scroll to the bottom if they want it to come true...i get a few of these a week from people i really believe should have to take some sort of exam before being allowed to operate anything having to do with the internet...

...the dad, a good southern boy who respects his elders not out of genuine reverence but out of some sort of rote training, smiles and says, "I sell that phone at my store.  I can set that up for you." ...he reaches out for her phone, but dance granny holds tight...

"You have store?"

...the dad is about to answer, but dance granny is going again...this time, she's talking so loudly that the dad and tiny woman back away as far as they can...they look as if they're pinned to the high counter of the front desk where the girl who sits behind it is fiddling with a set of monster high dolls...i know the girl, vaguely, as the owner of the studio...she's a college student, an artist, who will be heading off to art school soon...she brushes the dolls' hair with an intensity only found in lonely children...

...dance granny is postulating on the way her son simply turned off the service on her last phone, leaving her stranded with the new one...how it took her three days just to figure out how to call him from it and demand he give her back the other one...it's been six weeks and she still doesn't know how to do anything else but use her phone for phone calls...finally, she shoves the phone at the dad and says, "Can you show me how to use this thing?"

...the dad is gracious, but the tiny woman turns away...in doing so, she meets my stare and rolls her eyes...i raise my eyebrows...

...a few moments later dance granny is off on another speech, this time about people who don't give blood during charity blood drives...i can't take it any more...i glance one more time at the television screen--my daughter won't be out of class for another half hour--and head outside to the picnic table just beyond the parking lot...it's been raining off and on for days, and the bench is moist, but i'd rather have a damp ass that listen to dance granny for another second...

...i'm not sure what makes dance granny so chatty...she's the oldest person in the lobby, by far, so perhaps she feels that gives her some sort of permission to dominate and monopolize conversations...i'm new to the dance academy, but everyone here seems to know one another at least by sight...maybe they're used to her, her loud voice as if she's speaking at a pep rally...maybe she's just background noise like the dance teachers behind the closed doors beating out ballet positions while the little girls follow along...

...more to the point, though, why does dance granny even need this sort of vapid conversation?...it's as pointless as the chain emails she'll once again send when the gracious dad sets up her account on her new phone...does she save up all of her talking points for saturday mornings, when she knows that the rest of us are just waking up and, thus, too tired to mutter a decent reply? 

...sitting at the table beneath the large oak tree, a high-pitched chatter begins behind me...two squirrels are bickering over an acorn...they're perched on a chain link fence, playing a strange version of chicken...finally, the loudest of the two abandons the fence...he hops down and scurries up the side of the tree, ignoring me completely...

...i suddenly wish my husband had come with me...if he were here, at least i'd have someone to talk to, maybe we could have some coffee and plan our week...as it is, we'll try to get our lives together in the fleeting moments we have before we lose consciousness when we fall into bed at the end of the day...we're both so tired lately...as if, instead of our daughter, we're the ones dancing around in circles...

...maybe instead of suffering from verbal diarrhea, dance granny is simply lonely...perhaps she spends her weeks in silence, ignored by the people who love her...maybe the dance academy lobby is the only place she can find some sort of connection to the outside...or maybe her week-long silences finally build up until all she can do is release her voice on the rest of us, a pseudo revenge on a world that, otherwise, overlooks her completely...

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