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Elbows Up

album cover The CommodoresToday is my 30th wedding anniversary, and if you’ve read Kenneth’s post from last Thursday, you’ll already know that thanks to his conniving and my credit card (which he has since paid off), thirty years and one-day after we danced to “Three Times a Lady” at our wedding, Peter and I will be attending a Lionel Richie concert. We’ll also be meeting the singer-songwriter… something that still seems all too surreal, but must be true nonetheless. It’s the stuff of fiction and song, except it isn’t.

Peter and I first met at a disco called the Stanley’s Steamer –– at the time we were both doing Science degrees in Mathematics at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, but somehow we hadn’t met.

I remember him walking into a classroom on the first day of the fall semester in second year, but then being sent back out because the class was full.  Sometime in early 1980, he remembers seeing me standing with a small group of people in the Chemistry Building where the Math majors hung out.

But we didn’t actually meet until after 11 p.m. on April 29th of that year, when music brought us together. One of the friends I was with that evening had wanted to leave. There’s no one interesting here, she said. The other friend, Hayes, who was and is the best friend any human could ever hope to have, understood why I wanted to stay.

Eyes meeting across the crowded room… communication without words…  connection across space… all those things you read about. And he asked me to dance, just as I’d been hoping he would.

The first song was “Rapper’s Delight”. Neither of us remembers the title of the second, but it was slow. And the tall, dark, handsome young man from Trinidad took me in his arms and said: Elbows up. As I’ve told people over the years, that was pretty much it. I was home, and we were together.

Except for the year he returned to Trinidad to apply for landed immigrant status so that there would be no suggestion ever that we got married so he could stay in Canada.

During our year in different countries –– before the Internet and email and texting, before Skype and FaceTime –– we had telephone calls, letters and cards… and we had music. Peter had his vinyl in Trinidad, I had my cassette tapes in Canada, and we listened to the same songs –– felt them together, despite the more than 4,000 km between us. The Commodores and Lionel Richie broke our hearts and mended them, all at the same time.

When we listen to Lionel Richie tomorrow night, we’ll inevitably be transported back to those days… to the lonely evenings when we were worlds apart… and to that beautiful night when we danced on the freshly painted floor of my father’s garage to our wedding song, “Three Times A Lady.”

Songs tell remarkable stories, but they also become part of other people’s stories. Sometimes for just a few moments… perhaps a few months. Sometimes, though, for thirty years, or more.

I often say to my husband: “Thank you for asking me to dance.”

He always answers: “Thank you for saying yes.”

And still… to this day… we smile.

And we dance.

Note: The image with this note is the Commodore’s album Peter has had since the late 1970s… the one with “Three Times a Lady”.