You may ask me, what has dancing got to do with funeral? I will tell you that when you go to the funeral of your old dancing instructor you can think of almost nothing else. Such was the case with the service I went to this week. It was for my dear Ethel Friel Barker.
It all began when I was in about third grade. My older sister was taking dance and gymnastics and so I wanted to too! My younger sister followed along after. Each week we would tromp down her stairs in our leotards, set our dollar on her piano and begin our lesson.
Bring on the tap shoes! What fun we had learning those dances. The costumes came next. Many times they were made by our mothers. I remember the rumba costume the most. The top was all gold sequins sewn on to satin. The bottom was an open skirt that showed off your dancing legs! haha!… a pair of green satin shorts underneath..and nothing skimpy!…then there were the ruffles of satin colors on the trailing skirt. I remember Ethel teaching us all how to shimmy. We all laughed!
Each year Ethel would travel to New York to Dance Caravan. She would learn all the dances and come back and teach them to all her students. She had students of all ages from the tiniest little ones to the high school kids. I remember two boys who learned a Russian dance. Their dance number was mixed with gymnastic moves.
Besides the lessons, Ethel would arrange for us to have shows.. at no extra cost to us. We traveled to girls homes, boys homes, a home for the mentally challenged.. and then even some Christmas shows for the American Legion. As shy as we were, it helped us to learn how to be in front of people. We learned about different people and the situations they live in.
When we got to high school, Ethel helped us with our gymnastic routines. She rented out the Grange Hall, lugged all her black mats over and we tumbled and practiced for our meets. All for that same one dollar bill on her piano.
Our lessons continued through high school and we occasionally went to see her for a class… just for fun. My last class was when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I remember going slow… I did a limber over… and then felt my daughter kick! That was the end of that! ha!
Many friends gathered for the memorial service. My sisters sat next to me and three other friends, all in the same row. When the minister asked us to read something, I watched as ALL of us dug into our purses for our glasses. Ethel would have laughed at that sight! We all laughed and cried.
When the service was over and we sat at our tables for a small lunch, we talked and talked about our dances, our costumes and Ethel. Before everyone left, we spread the word through out the room that anyone who wanted to, could participate in the performance of the Waltz Clog! This was the dance that Ethel taught every student. ( My sisters and I do it periodically, even now for fun).
The people gathered… most dressed in black and white. We almost looked like we were in costume. .. and then we began. We sang the tune as we stumbled though the dance moves laughing! Our last steps were always … just as Ethel taught us, ”step cut the pie” with our feet.
What a wonderful remembrance. What a wonderful person she was! We will always celebrate Ethel!
This brings me to this thought. I have been thinking about it a lot in the last few weeks since I know four people who have died recently. There are many people who live life helping others. It’s such a wonderful thing. They give and give and give until it’s time for heaven. Their memorial services are happy sad, but often joy filled. Others take and take and take until their last day. Those services are sad. … almost tragic.
I prefer happy! I like the thought of people dancing at my funeral. .. and singing loud!