Friday, June 25, 2010

The Last Waltz

"Hi, Christopher."

"Hi. I'm sorry I didn't return your call sooner. I had a busy night last night."

"I wanted to tell you Peggy died yesterday."

The unbelievable revelation hit me just as suddenly as my dear friend left this earth. She couldn't be gone. Not now. Not possibly. I knew she had heart trouble and a chest scar to show for it, but this defied reality.

And then it didn't, not after losing two grandparents to sudden cardiac failures. Again, again, it has taken someone I cared about.

I first met Peggy last year, when I was dabbling deeper in the Arizona Regency Society. They were starting weekly English country dance practices at the local libraries around Tucson, and the ladies finally coaxed me into getting out of my morning slacking and showing up. When I arrived that first Wednesday in November, we barely had enough people for a set dance. One of us had to recruit people poring over pages to put down their books and join us for a little 18th Century diversion. Peggy helped us grow quickly in a short period of time.

A couple of months later, we were aiming for our first big dance at the Tucson Scottish Rite Masonic Temple. The Masons were happy to lend us a room for a donation, and we were excited to have a venue with such appropriate historic ambiance.

Months of planning begot more than a few nervous moments. We all learned a few good lessons on event management. Peggy was there for us as treasurer and publicist, helping us all to get the word out to the right people. We stepped up our practice sessions. Peggy couldn't make every one of them, but she was there for many a Saturday evening when we rented the Tucson Ballet's studio for an hour and a half and refined our technique on "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot" and "Jenny's Market." I shared many dances with her. I had the honor of teaching her a Virginia Reel.

She had that quiet charm packaged in a warm smile. She, the Regency ladies, and I shared tea together several times. I still don't know how historically correct that would have been, but nobody found fault that I was often a lone gentleman among the fair ones, and especially not her. Thankfully, her husband didn't either.

The big dance came this past weekend. Peggy and The Mister dressed in their Regency finest and let grace envelop them and their children. We had a few glitches in our first prominent soiree, but nothing we couldn't forget about as long as we all kept dancing. It ended too soon for them. She began talking about the next dance almost immediately, planning and dreaming about it, just as we all did.

She especially fancied the last dance, the "Duke of Kent's Waltz." It is one of my favorites as well, with its beautifully flowing movements and courtly airs to three-quarter time. It leaves the right kind of person longing for those times of powdered wigs and three-cornered hats, bows and curtsies, honor and civility, manners and kindness, sense and sensibility.

It is my theory that people who enjoy this kind of dancing -- especially those who dress in period attire and dance -- enjoy it because it balances out what is ugly, unfair, and unkempt in the world surrounding them. I strongly believe GOD uses our love of it to do HIS work. I don't know if Peggy believed that, but she had to believe she was part of something that made the world better.

Now she's gone, and we're left to ask ourselves why... why her. Once again, I believe Satan knows exactly where to hit us when he attacks. He wouldn't come after us for nothing. It's going to take some time for the loss to soak in, just as it always does. I suppose we'll feel obligated to leave an empty chair at tea, or an empty place in the set for her, just to keep her in our hearts.

We love you Peggy. We shall dance on.

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