This was most likely my last performance with the tap club. There aren’t any performances in June, and Matt and I will be gone by July. The group is an all-volunteer club who meets twice a week and performs at the local nursing and retirement homes in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. They call themselves “The Tap Club” and have been together over 25 years, all class members of the Lakewood Dance and Music Center—a branch of the City of Norfolk’s Recreation, Parks and Open Spaces.
Dear sweet Michelle drove all the way over to watch my tap performance, snapping pictures like our club was a famous group on the Today show. It was so much fun having paparazzi for a day. I don’t know what the celebrities complain about!
Two of us are moving out of state and our teacher drug us to the front to say good-bye and thank us for performing.
It meant the world to me that Michelle and Matt were both able to watch me perform. I talk non-stop about tap, “the ladies at the tap class” and the two lone men in the group. Our eldest member is 89-years-old. It puts things into perspective for me. That saying, “You’re only as old as you think you are,” has meaning in this class.
As a new military wife, I’ve learned you have to get out there—out of the house, out of the comfort zone and into the thick of things. When I first arrived in Norfolk, my husband was out at sea, and I was hell-bent on writing a book. I didn’t leave the house except to go to the grocery store. My neighbor constantly checked in on me, convinced I was a shut-in. I wrote until he returned home, four months later.
Once Matt was back, I decided to be more balanced. Burnt out from solely writing, I got back in the pool, started tap-dancing lessons and joined a memoir writing class. I decided to be social, to explore Norfolk, to let my guard down. So what if I was only going to be here for a year and a half? I listened. I laughed. I learned. And in the process, lo and behold, I made friends!
Many of the ladies at the tap club were military wives themselves. Mostly retired, they don’t judge me for not having a job outside the home, or not having children yet. I don’t have to wear make-up or fix my hair. They greet me when I come to class with smiles and hellos. They remember my name. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as accepted and loved by a group I didn’t even know a year ago. I feel like I have a small dancing family.
I’ve never had a problem leaving. I’ve always thought of myself a bit of a gypsy with the lifestyle I’ve chosen—heading overseas on my own at 18 and finding jobs in different countries, joining the military and eventually marrying a military man. I’ve always appreciated the wonderful characters I’ve met and what a place has taught me, and then moved on.
Maybe it’s because I’m older, or maybe it’s because I’ve found my niche here in Norfolk, but between Michelle and the tap club— I have no idea how I’m going to make it out of this place without tears. I lie in bed at night and think about something someone said or did in class that day, or how Michelle and I laughed about something stupid. I find myself smiling in the dark, tears sliding down the side of my face.