"And to think that I got your name out of a book!" she whispered fiercely into my ear as we twirled around the dance floor. Who is this wild lady I've been dancing with all night? We were having a heck of a night dancing together -- waltzes, swing, cha cha chas -- and polkas, lots and lots of polkas. It was one of the most wonderful dance nights of my life -- and I've never danced with the lady before, will never dance with her again. But we were good -- the look in others' eyes said so -- and several told us so. "I've been watching you two all night long," one ringside lady said. "You are fun to watch."
Where did this all begin? With the good book. When I finally got my wits back (whispering fiercely into my ear does funny things to other parts of my body) I replied: "Yes, but that's some book." The book? The Country Dance & Song Society's Directory. Traverse City: Bayside Travelers, contact person Henry Morgenstein. And that's where it all began, but it had a rocky start -- a very weird beginning. I call it the day the two Connies arrived.
Several months before the day two Connies came to town, I received a phone call from Connie Caldwell (I later found out). I returned the call and she tells me she will be in my area right around July 4th. We chat and I tell her there are no contra dances, but the local Folk Dance group holds its weekly dances at the lakeside home of one of the members. The deck we dance on is a few feet away from Grand Traverse Bay. A stunning setting. She must come to dance on the beautiful deck. Okay. She will be in touch with me.
Two weeks later I receive a second phone call: Connie's friend wants to let me know that he & Connie will be in my area -- I interrupt to tell him that Connie herself called. He is somewhat surprised but he continues, and as we talk, I end up telling him basically all I told Connie: Folk Dancing Wednesday night; a must see, a stunning setting. He said he'd be in touch.
I am out the morning of the Wednesday Folk Dance and when I return there's a message on my machine. Connie calling at 1 p.m. to say she is about 100 miles north of Traverse City, and she will try to make it to this evening's folk dance. At 4:45, when the second phone call arrives, I'm in the midst of a furious bout of house cleaning, getting ready to offer lodgings to poor, lonesome, wandering Connie.
The phone call is from Connie's friend. They are thirty or so miles out of town, at a relative's home. They just pulled in and they are about to sit down to eat dinner with family. He wants to know if the Wednesday night folk dance is still on.
I am a bit puzzled. I thought Connie was trying to make it to the dance, and now I hear she and her friend are sitting down to a family dinner that will make it difficult for them to get to the 7 p.m. dance on time. I tell him the dance is still on, but given his location, many miles out of town, it will not be easy for him to get to the dance when it begins.
He sounds discouraged, negative. He leaves me with the distinct impression that the upcoming leisurely dinner excludes the possibility of folk dancing. But just in case, he would like directions to the dance. I give him directions.
I hang up confused: I thought Connie was trying to make it to the dance? I thought Connie was poor wandering Connie, and now I find she has a family, food, friends. Anyway: Whew. Okay. Role of host & hotel done with. I leave the house, come back three quarters of an hour later and there is a message on my machine. "Connie. I just pulled in to Traverse City. I am wandering around looking for a motel. I'll call back."
What the hell is going on? Boyfriend says Connie and he boarded, fed, and not very interested in dancing. And now Connie phones. Hi. Looking for motel, will call back. I am poised to pounce on the phone when it rings. It rings. Connie. She is at the Holiday Inn which is a few blocks from my house. I launch into a tirade about how her friend just phoned to say that they were at her family's house, sitting down to dinner and I don't understand.... When I finally calm down and begin to ask her questions, I realize I am dealing with Two Connies -- Connie Caldwell, who is on the line with me right now, and what I later will learn is Connie Geis (who long ago attended dance camp with me). For 56 years of my life, no Connie ever calls. On one day two Connies call wondering about Folk dancing.
I sped to the local motel, hugged who I thought was my camp-mate of long ago (so what if I didn't recognize the person I was hugging: I have a lousy memory) and immediately offered lodging. Only later did I find out I hugged, and was hugged back by, a complete and total stranger. She got my name out of a book.
But the comedy of errors was not totally over. I had forgotten that on rainy days, the evening folk dance was relocated indoors to the "Fitness Center." I found this out at 6:30 p.m. The other Connie left me with no phone number at which I could reach her. Connie Caldwell and I did not walk out the door until 7:30, but when we returned, an irate message -- from Connie's friend -- was on the machine. "We followed your instructions, Henry. We went to the house. We walked up the long driveway and made our way past the house and saw the deck. But no one was there -- except some barking dogs." He went on at some length. He was not a happy camper.
When he phoned the next morning I explained the confusion of the two Connies and he apologized for not leaving me a number at which I could reach him.
Connie Caldwell, as gracious a guest as ever stayed at my humble abode, rose early in the morning to go to the Sand Dunes. I told her (and Alan Gedance, Connie Geis' friend) that I'd forgotten that the Cedar Polka Fest began tonight, Thursday night. I had gone once before and found it too rowdy, too crowded, but the dancing was intense, the bands were terrific. I told Connie that if she returned, I would take her to the Polka Fest.
Late that afternoon she returned: "Your offer was too good to refuse," she said. It was a wonderful night, a night I will long remember. Because it was Thursday night, the dance floor was not crowded. The next night, Friday night, four thousand were let inside, thousands more were left outside.
Connie Caldwell is a wonderful follower. She let me know it was a flaw in her character -- she was too easily led by others -- but she too realized a seeming flaw can be an enormous asset on the dance floor. We were good. We brought no emotional baggage to the dance floor. I didn't know her, she didn't know me, and no one around us knew either of us.
We flew, we rollicked, we romped. We locked eyes, whispered furiously into ears. We galloped through many a polka, and my sinuous cha cha moves were all the more sinuous because of the joy of leading a novice who so quickly and effortlessly did what I led her to do.
Before the arrival of the two Connies I was fully prepared to remove my name from "the good book"-- I am not as deeply involved in the local dance group as I once was. But my name is in the directory again this year, and I hope it will be there for many years to come. Who knows what future Connies might come wheeling through town. I am ready, ready to dance fiercely.
The good book has taken me to many towns -- my two young children once asked me if I intended to dance my way across the U.S.A. I said "Yes"-- and now it has brought wonderful dancers to my hometown. Long live the good book.
Copyright © 2001 Henry Morgenstein