Learning to Follow


Two years ago Rob asked me to sit down because he had a suggestion…oo, ominous.

“So, do you want to take dance lessons?” he asked.

I was thrilled. I’d begged him for this early in our marriage and he’d finally decided it was time. He was part of the committee to plan AMICA’s (Automated Musical Instruments Collectors’ Association) convention in July 2019 and he wanted to be ready to cut a rug in style with me. Off to swing lessons we went. It was like therapy in a way.

The biggest joint task of lessons is learning to lead or follow. Most of our 40 years together, we had played to our personality temperaments: I am extroverted, outspoken and bold while he tends to be humble, observant and reserved. Most of the time this has made us a great team, just as several of our other differing interests and skills have. But when dancing? Not so much. One person, usually the man, leads and one, in our case, the woman, is supposed to follow. In our gendered culture, we never considered flipping—designating woman as The Lead and man as The Follow. Now that’s a wild consideration but not where this post is going.

Instead over the two years of convention planning, retired Rob has had time and energy to sink his teeth into several new activities, like dance lessons, and the new ways of being they’ve required. For instance, about a year ago he was asked to serve as vice president of our local AMICA chapter. Agreeing to give it a go was a challenge for my anxious fellow. And since I was finishing my working years, including traveling, it was clear that I couldn’t help much. Music, and especially machines, are more his thing anyway. He was off and running, leading as he saw fit with me following along as support.

So here we are now, post-convention. Home from an outstanding week of “vacationing in Tukwila” (the locals understand the humor here). What an extraordinary time we had! Rob and I were bus captains throughout the week. The popular initial tour—the one Rob planned and orchestrated—sold out. I resisted speaking on the microphone and instead enjoyed listening to him rattle on (who knew?) Greeting the guests (and putting a bug in his ear on occasion) was fine with me. Talk about good teamwork.

Much of the convention happenings were remarkable and deserve comment. For one example, pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen from Norway, who specializes in early American jazz and ragtime, was my favorite guest artist. Getting to know the others from around the country and beyond was very special too—lots of rich stories and graciousness. As we prepare for Rob’s surgery, it was splendid to be surrounded by lively, joyous tunes and to be shored up by the well wishes of many.

The long-awaited final banquet, an evening of fine dining and dancing—not our usual date by any means—was spectacular. We always welcome live music in every form so the Cornucopia Concert Band fit the bill. However we were expecting more swing and ragtime rather than the majority being marches and waltzes. My man can keep a beat though and adapted. And—surprise, surprise—I followed.

From now on, whenever we want a giggle, we’ll conjure up fond memories with this video: Yours truly goes dancing, er, marching (see halfway through clip). I was tickled to be asked, first to lessons and then to the big dance floor. Remembering the occasion warms me from my swinging head to my tapping toes. I’m happy to follow his lead when indicated.

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