I have another treat for you with the next blog sitting post. Jennie Fitzkee has a wonderful blog where she shares stories of her life as a pre-school teacher. But in this post Jennie shares a hidden talent… well hidden from us up to now!
The Wedding Dancer by Jennie Fitzkee
Friends. Good friends. There are seven of us. Lucky Seven, I’d say. We met when our children were quite young and sang together in a premier children’s choral group. The group made two trips to England, including singing at Harrods and at St Martin-in-the-Fields. We stuck together through years of rehearsals and performances, a brilliant choir director who drank too much, and an organist who was as kind as Father Christmas to the children. The choir flourished, and so did our friendship.
I never really experienced diversity before. My southern upbringing where everyone was alike abruptly changed when I moved to New England. These ladies, good friends, were different from me. Our commonality was music, and that was the foundation for a life-long friendship.
Paula was the smart one, the leader, and a math genius.
Jane was the voice of standing up for what is right and wrong. She could have led the woman’s suffrage movement back in the day. She was also the chef.
Carolyn was the witty one and a brilliant writer. She reviewed all the theater performances in Boston.
Kathryn was the accomplished musician and an excellent nurse.
Alice was the outstanding teacher, working with blind students in Boston.
Elaine was the savvy one, the techy one. She also owned the great outdoors.
Death and illness intervened and brought us closer together. Alice’s husband died, and Paula’s husband became very ill. We started meeting for dinner every month. Then, we started meeting for a weekend every summer at Paula’s house on Lake Winnisquam in New Hampshire. Meanwhile, our children were going through teenage years and prep school applications. We cried. We laughed. Oh, how we laughed! We swam in the lake and became the Mermatrons. Too old to be mermaids, so matrons seemed to fit the title.
That humorously came to be pronounced merm-A-trons. Yes, we have a title. Our children are jealous, hoping that they find such a lifetime group of friends.
Music was always the bond, the glue. We shared our love of opera. I shared my love of R&B. We talked about the concerts we went to in college, and the great music of the 60’s and 70’s. I always said, “I want to be Aretha Franklin’s back-up singer.” I did, and I meant it. We played music at Paula’s on the lake, loud. Really loud. We sang and danced as if no time had passed since college.
Then, our children were older. Kathryn’s daughter was getting married. Kathryn said, “Jennie, you have always wanted to be Aretha Franklin’s back-up singer. Let’s do a performance at the wedding reception. You can lead us in a song and dance.”
Whoa! Me? Leading a R&B song and doing a performance? I protested, but finally caved.
I had to pick a song and decided on “One Fine Day” by the Chiffons. Costumes were white gloves. Picture a hand in the glove, and a finger waving and hips moving as we sang the words, “one fine day.”
Our practices were… hysterical. We were so bad that we laughed more than we sang. Wine helped, or maybe it didn’t help. Dancing to music looked like snow shoveling. At one practice, a client of Carolyn’s husband arrived, just in time to see us in all our glory, or less than glory. Paula’s son was there to help. Oh, we needed help. He clapped his hands together saying, “Ladies in the back row.” We knew we were bad. We’d never had so much fun.
We dubbed that as one of our top-ten Mermatron moments.
The wedding reception arrived, and so did we. I was (gulp) front and center. Carolyn and all her wit announced us, and… we were a big hit. Standing ovation. The audience asked for an encore. Encore? Carolyn’s parting words to the crowd at the end of our performance were, “Ladies and gentlemen, as we speak, Federal Agents from the Witness Protection Program are waiting to escort the performers…”
Out first wedding performance was a smash!
Paula’s younger son was the next to get married. After the success that happened at the previous wedding, we were asked to perform. This time, I had to be prepared for a song AND an encore. Clearly the 60’s female groups were our thing, at least for weddings. I picked “Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. We wore white boas, long white gloves, and white cat-eye rhinestone-studded glasses. This was far more costume than the short white gloves we had worn before. The movements to the words would have topped any 60’s group. We had it nailed!
Then came the encore, “Gimme Some Lovin” by the Spencer Davis Group. I knew it had to be good, and not a female R&B song, as it was the encore! We practiced. More wine and more laughing helped. Well, sort of. Before the wedding, my husband and I attended a friend’s wedding. The DJ at the reception was taking requests for songs, and I knew I needed a practice in front of an audience. He played the song, I sang and danced… and everybody was watching. Everybody, including the kitchen help. Yes, they came out of the kitchen to watch.
I danced in front of a group of hundreds of people. Alone. I brought the house down. I had to practice for my friend’s wedding. Afterwards, a new acquaintance said, “Jennie, I didn’t know you were, uh, like that.” Little did he know I’m not. The power of music is remarkable.
At the Mermatron’s wedding reception we slipped away to “dress” in our boas, glasses, and long white gloves. “Heat Wave” has a long instrumental introduction with plenty of rhythm and soul- perfect for walking onto the stage. You could have heard a pin drop except for the music. I think the Mermatrons were relieved I was up front in case they screwed up, or had a sudden fit of hysterical laughter. Oh, we were good! Swinging hips and shoulders, waving arms up high, or open wide, with great exaggeration, of course. I think Martha Reeves and the Vandellas had real competition.
As soon as the song ended, and all the clapping and cheering died down, we turned our backs to the audience, took off the boas, glasses, and gloves, and grabbed dark sunglasses. Time for “Gimme Some Lovin”, the encore! Turning around to face the audience, we stood stone-faced, feet apart, and holding sunglasses behind our backs.
The music began with the heavy sound of five, do-do-do-do-do beats. We slowly put on our sunglasses at the second round of beats, keeping rhythm to the music. That was our killer opening move. This dance was heavy rock, not the smooth beats of R&B. We shook our hair, bent over shaking our shoulders, and pulled in an imaginary rope. Remember Dan Aykroyd in “The Great Outdoors”, dancing at the end of the movie and pulling his wife in with a ‘rope’? Yeah, that was the (great) move we did.
Just when wedding dancing seemed like a distant, lovely Mermatron memory, Kathryn’s other daughter married, and of course she wanted us to perform at her reception. The Chiffons came through again with “He’s So Fine.” Love that R&B. No boas, just long white gloves and the rhinestone studded white glasses. As we had a last rehearsal in the wings, Paula’s son remarked, “The ladies in the back row now have separate movements. Wow!” Can you picture 60-year-olds orchestrating and actually dancing to a hit song, with separate movements? We did, and we made The Chiffons proud. Carolyn introduced us as the Merm-a-tones. The audience roared their approval, and we danced the night away.
Paula’s oldest son was the next to marry. Mr. Ladies in the Back Row probably knew us better than any of our children. Naturally, we decided on the best wedding song ever, “Chapel of Love”, by the Dixie Cups. As with all the wedding dancing events, I spent the previous month singing the song under my breath at every moment, and unconsciously working on ‘cool moves’. Yes, in public. The stares were priceless. My husband did not feel the same way, though. I spied bling rings at the checkout counter at Pier One and lost it. I turned into a four-year-old on Christmas morning. I grabbed seven rings and tried to tell the sales lady how perfect they’ll be on top of the white gloves. She didn’t respond. I tried to explain the song and dance while trying on every ring, then noticed the silence around me. My husband clenched his teeth, paid for the rings, and pulled me out of the store.
Since this was the wedding of the hip, cool child, we went all out and decided to finish the song by immediately going into the latest, greatest, coolest music of the day- Gangnam Style! Well, first we had to learn that dance. So, two YouTube videos to the rescue, and lots of wine. One video was instructional. We followed along, or at least tried to. That was a sight not to behold. Laughter caused serious bladder control issues. A friend aged twenty-something watched us jump and cross our wrists, the key dance move, and commented that we looked like scarecrows. Now that was encouraging. Although, rolling our derrieres was a move we got down pat. Pun intended?
At the wedding reception, we entered the stage walking in a line, each with a hand on the shoulder of the lady in front of us. We flashed those bling rings at the audience and nearly brought the house down. But, no time to pause, as we immediately transitioned to Gangnam Style, including wearing singer PSY’s sunglasses. The audience enthusiastically whistled and clapped along to the beat. That certainly helped, and we pulled it off, beautifully.
Fast forward to today. One of our children has been friends with Meghan Markle for quite a while. If he is invited to the Royal Wedding, don’t you think he should suggest the Mermatrons as entertainment? Wait! We could ask Her Majesty the Queen to join the ladies in the back row!
Laughter makes the world all the better. So do good friends. Hats off to the Mermatrons and our wedding dancing adventures.
©Jennie Fitzkee images 2018
Wasn’t that a wonderful post of friendship, music and laughter and I know that Jennie would love your feedback..
About Jennie Fitzkee
I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about.
I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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I look forward to checking up on your comments when I get back next Wednesday and thanks again to Jennie for a lovely post.