Recently, a dear friend of mine had a surprise 40th birthday Gala Celebration- compliments of her wonderful mom. The venue was strikingly beautiful with large glass windows looking out into the terrace, where a view of trees with Christmas lights awaited us. The décor was Parisian- a sculpture of the La Tour Eiffel, the waiters & waitresses wore black and pink berets, there was a large canvas backdrop depicting Paris scenery – a cafe with tables outside on a brick paved street – as well as a mime, caricature artist, and a delicious assortment of macaroons. Tunes of the 80’s and 90’s filled the air, like “Who’s Crying Now” by Journey to House music and “It’s Time for the Percolator” by Cajmere.
Then, the Salsa music came on – and of course – the dance floor demanded my presence, especially since the deejay was playing Marc Anthony’s latest hit. You see, my mom adored Marc Anthony. Before becoming famous his band played a few times at the Tropicana Night Club- located in the north side of Chicago – and my mom was fortunate to have the opportunity to hang out with him back stage.
As Marc Anthony’s new song, “Viva Mi Vida” played, I couldn’t help but to reminisce of the good old days – I know it sounds cliché – but definitely appropriate for this story. Salsa music and I have a history. It is an integral part of who I am. My body becomes one with the rhythm and I feel as if -to borrow a quote from Michael Jackson- the “blood is dancing through my veins.” It profoundly touches my soul, and I instantly become connected to my roots, my DNA. But most importantly, it takes me back to my childhood. To a time of innocence, a time when things were simpler, a time when my mom was well.
In the 80s my family and I lived in a two bedroom apartment in Back of the Yards- a south side neighborhood of Chicago. I can vividly remember myself sitting on the couch watching my favorite performers – my mom and dad- dancing to “Brujeria” by El Gran Combo. Back then, they used an eight-track player. I would sit anxiously waiting to have my turn around the living room floor.
My mom and dad loved to dance. It was undoubtedly their trademark. Before going out to a party or Night Club, they had to take a few rounds around our living room floor. My dad is a serious Salsa dancer, and as the leader, he was not going to look like an amateur. He made sure to practice the turns, the dips, and the hand exchanges. He knew my mom and him had to be in sync. To not be in sync with your dance partner would be a catastrophe on the dance floor. But when dancers are in sync, the movements appear effortless- it is a beautiful thing to witness.
As I danced at my friend’s party, I became more and more aware of my steps & the rhythm of the song. It surprised me how freely my feet moved, and how I danced without missing a beat. However, I must confess, I did not have a dancing partner. Dancing with a partner is not that simple. Someone has to lead, and someone has to be willing to follow.
Though my mom was a strong, independent, and, at times, stubborn woman, she willingly allowed my dad to lead. She understood that dancing with a partner took one leader and one follower. When she danced, her face lit up with joy, and she knew everyone was watching. Which, of course they were. My parents synchronicity made them one being, a single music note floating in the air, pleasing to the ear and eye.
Over the years, I have found that being in sync with God’s plan is my upmost, important mission in life. My heart’s desire is for God to direct my path, for my steps to be ordered by Him, for His will to be done in my life … But I know this can’t come to fruition if I choose to lead and not follow. When I attempt to lead, that doesn’t change God’s plans; if anything I am the one that appears to be out of sync.
God wants to dance with us, but we need to submit to his leadership. So many times we turn right, when we were supposed to go left. We move on things too fast without waiting for the gentle tug of His hand. We pull towards our own selfish direction. So far that we end up too far away from our partner- God.
As I live my life, here on this earth, my desire is to daily practice my dance moves: reading the bible, worshipping whole-heartily, praying fervently, and serving with a humble spirit.
I will do this so I can be in sync with my God. Because I know the day will come when I have to face my Savior. And we will have our dance. And during this dance, I want to hear him say “well done, my good and faithful servant!”
Occasionally on a Saturday afternoon, very similar to my upbringing, you will find my family in the living room with the Salsa music blasting, and me dancing on the living room floor with my children. Shortly after my mom’s illness, there was a season of my life that I couldn’t hear Salsa music. It brought me too much pain.
But now, I hear it and I see my mom and dad dancing, and that brings me joy.
Today, my dad no longer has his dance partner- my mom, but I like to believe he carries all those wonderful memories in his heart, like I do. He had the amazing privilege of being her dance partner for a little over 25 years…
A few Salsa songs my parents enjoyed dancing to, but in no particular order:
“Jibaro Soy”- Rafy Leavit y La Selecta
“Brujeria” El Gran Baron
“Lloraras” by Oscar D’ Leon
“Indestructible” – Rey Barreto
“Lluvia” – Eddie Santiago
“El Gran Varon” – Willie Colon
“Borinquen Tiene Montuno”-Ismael Miranda
“Guantanamera” -Celia Cruz
“A Pedir Su Mano” – Juan Luis Guerra
“Hasta Que Te Conocí” – Marc Anthony
“Esta Cobardia”- Freddie Ruiz
“No Le Pegue a La Negra”- Grupo Niche
“Sopa de Caracol”- La Banda Blanca