Thursday, May 13, 2010

Zumba Nights

"the party's over, the rooster is
crowing and they've called in
the dice..."
                                                                                      --Charles Bukowski

     I reached over to give Arcy a hug and a high five before I got out of her car. 
     Who-whudda-thunk-it? We'd pulled it off. Finally, one of our schemes to spend more time together, despite kids and jobs and significant others had gotten off the ground.

     Not that it was easy. That night, Arcy had to arrange for the the twins to to go to their grandparent's house, and I had to squeeze in the pre-bedtime hooplah (baths and bedtimes stories and prayers) before I left. In fact, I'd almost canceled on her tonight. Paul had gotten out of work late and as much as I tried to avoid them, my comfy pj's beckoned every time I passed my bedroom.
     But then I'd remembered the pep talk.
     "We've got to stand up for what we need!" I said when we'd first talked about  Zumba two nights a week. "They make sure they get what they need!"
     " trips and sports with the guys and all that..., " she said.
     "Exactly. So we'll just tell them we have made a commitment to go to Zumba twice a week, and that's it."

     Both guys were encouraging in theory, but quickly realized our commitment would mean their sacrifice. It would mean taking over whatever bedtime duties we didn't get to. It meant they had to be home so that we could leave. But we'd stood our ground. As I got out of the car, the adrenaline from the workout...and our unlikely victory, was palpable. I floated inside my front door.

     The magic of Zumba is the music, plain and simple. It's the best let-your-hair-down music from all over the world, crammed into an hour. The first time I tried it, I thought: I could listen to this music and just jump up and down and still feel this alive!
     The music makes it so.
     It's just like my Papa's and Beer days all over again...except without the tequila
     .....or the sand
     ....or the guys...
     OK, so it's really not like the old days, but still fun enough.
     A lot of the music is new to me. There's reggaeton (a kind of reggae, salsa fusion), rock en espanol, and exotic belly-dancing music.
     But once in a while one of our songs will come on...the ones with stories behind every beat, the ones that raise our pulse a notch. You know what I'm talking about. You're stuff in traffic, cursing the freeway, your job, your life...and then a song comes on and you're plopped right back to the good times, when your insides turned to mush.
     When those songs come on during Zumba, we glance at each other, eyes wide, remembering the time...
     Such a song was playing and the instructor had us doing lo' to the flo' moves.
     Ohhhh shoot...
     Arcy dared me with her eyes. Could I still do it? Would the music unlock my inner tootsie roll, the dance that would end all clubbing nights?
     "I don't think I could do this without tequila," I whispered as I made my way carefully to the floor. 
     "I don't think we've ever done it in such bright light either," she whispered back.  
     Now, there were many times the song could've plopped us back to, but as we shimmied and twisted and salsaed, we were transported to the mecca. All we had to do was close our eyes and there we were: Rosarito, Mexico.
     Rosarito is where we'd celebrate birthdays and break-ups, kick off the beginning or ending of summer. There were three of us and we found endless reasons to go to Rosarito. There was shopping, of course, and the food...but all that was merely filler as we waited for the sun to set and the night life to begin. Papa's and Beer was the spot. It was an outside dance club right on the sand and under the moon.   I'd step through the gates after standing in line forever and soak it all in. There was a communal sense of relief mingled with the salty night air. It was the weekend and we'd left it all behind. Toes were buried in sand. We'd dance. And dance. And then we'd dance and dance and dance. The three of us would dance in a circle, giggling. We were free! Not since have I felt that sense of total freedom.    
    And the night had just begun. 
    Whistles were a fixture in Rosarito night clubs. They would pierce through the thunderous music and like Pavlov's dogs, we'd start to salivate. The whistles meant something good was about to happen. Somebody would get something good poured down her throat, picked up over the whistler's shoulder, and spun around to the beat of the music. Cheers!      
     When the club finally closed and the music replaced with sounds from the sea, it was time for tacos. There was a ramshackle taco stand outside Papa's and everyone would head over there to eat tacos and watch the sun come up. In the light, you could make out the faces of the people who'd been dancing next to you all night. Between bites of taco, some people said they were from Sand Diego, right across the border, others as far as from out of state.  
     The metallic muddy smell of Mexico...anything could be swept under the sand at daybreak, but not the smell. There was no denying where we'd been. It lingered in our hair and clothes.                               The memories of these times...they were such an integral part of my coming-of-age, and I'm guessing this is true for many. 
     I remember the last time we made the pilgrimage to Rosarito. We'd entered our thirties and we were all more tired than usual during the car ride. Through yawns we assured each other we'd pep up as soon as we got there. We went to Papa's, but the drinks only made us drowsy. The whistles made us wince.
     "Were the whistles always so loud?" I asked.
     As we walked to the taco shack way before last call at the club, we agreed: it would probably be our last free-wheeling trip to Mexico. We wrapped sweaters tight against the wind, ate tacos and talked about meetings, and lesson plans not yet written.                                                                                        We were very quiet as we privately mourned our Mexico nights. No one had to say it: we had to quit while we were ahead. We didn't, after all, be the grandma in the mini-skirt and skuffed heels at the end of the bar.       

Now  I am nearing 40 and happy to dig out these memories from beneath the sand.
                   Zumba made it so.                                                                                                                              


  1. Go Zumba! Who would have thought that a Zumba class could teach a personal lesson about giving up a "free" life in exchange for a family? Your words painted an image of party life in Mexico very well. It was funny. It was descriptive. It was fun. And it made me think about my past and my fun. I really want to know your reaction to having this memory. It matters for me personally. I have memories that seem to convey a free time in my life that I could no longer live as a mother and wife. It would be nice to hear how you react to these type of memories. Can you share?

  2. I have been more and more OK with it...and felt like, "Yeah, I'm done, it's OK" the older I've gotten. Early thirties were hard because I could still taste the freedom...catch a whiff of the good times. They were recent memories.
    ...certain times in particular are still hard: New Years, my birthday, 4th of July. When these occasions approach I get antsy...restless. These were times when my friends and I would do it up. It won't ever be the same. Other moms I talk to shrug it off..."it's just different now", they say. They tell me I just have to be creative and create fun in different ways. That's the thing, though, about the old days. They were carefree. We didn't have to try so hard. Because of our "anything goes" attitude, we would have fun no matter what we did. We'd scoff at planning.

    In time, though, you just buy a strobe light, turn on the stereo, fix cocktails and have a dance party in the living room.