Post-derby polka

Tonight we dined at the Center House of the Seattle center. For those of you not in Seattle, this is essentially the food court on the grounds of the Seattle center — the place with the Space Needle and museums and theaters and Key Arena. I heard that the food court had drastically improved and we had gotten free tickets to the roller derby (thanks, cancer hospital) so we decided to check out the food court post-derby.

It also turned out to be Polish Festival Day and there were Polish musicians in all their pretty clothes playing on the stage. Nick was with us and we all joked about getting some pirogues. We’re not actually Polish, but we’re close enough to get excited about the prospect of pierogies and polka music. Nick said he had pirogues last night, so we stuck to our original food court plans–but see what I mean about not quite being Polish?

Maryanne and Brad were desperate to get closer to the music. “Come on, mama – let’s dance! Let’s dance!” They stormed the stage, and I was right behind them. Baldness be damned, I was gonna get my polka on with my kids! But we got to the dance floor and Maryanne pulled up short. Brad stormed ahead and then stopped and looked at me. A woman, a homeless woman, took Jake’s hand and then my hand and for a moment we formed a circle and swayed to the music together. Brad squirmed away over to Maryanne, leaving me facing the woman. I gave her my other hand. We began to dance.

It was a slow polka. There were a few other couples on the floor holding one another, moving round and round. There were a few groups of moms and children, and there was me and my partner. She had gray hair and glasses and blue flowers in her hair. She was taller than me and thin and her hands were very weathered, red and extremely dry and cracked. We spun around and I saw her bag of things on a chair nearby, and I saw the faces of a few women watching us. Their eyes told me I was not her first dance partner.

She wanted to be twirled. So I twirled her over and over and over again. We didn’t dance long–Brad ran off, our food was coming … but we danced longer than I ever would have imagined I’d dance with a homeless woman at the food court at the Center House. And it was a blessing.

This post doesn’t have much to do with cancer. Other than to say cancer has really tapped me into the deep veins of life’s beauty and of life’s suffering. We have been overwhelmed by the beauty of love and friendship that is deeply threaded into our lives. We have also been made so much more aware of the suffering that is part of this existence. Sure, our suffering, but really this cancer has opened our eyes and hearts to many other people’s suffering. Dancing with this woman was special because it was one of the few times I’ve experienced the beauty and the suffering simultaneously.

How absolutely beautiful that this woman would hear the music and stand and demand to be danced with, demand to be twirled and twirled and twirled! Yes! I hear it! I’m alive! I count, too! Yes!

I walked by the dance floor a few times during our meal and each time she was up dancing with different partners. One woman seemed to be a great dancer and they were having a ball on the dance floor. The next partner was more awkward like me, turning and twirling. I never did get the kids out there with me; it was enough for them to watch. Eventually, dinner was done and bedtime had passed us by, and we hauled our cranky kids out of the Center House. The band had started to pack up and the woman had disappeared from sight.

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Christine Hallberg

Christine is an Orthodox Christian, a wife, a mother of three little children, a daughter, a friend, and a sworn enemy of cancer. In February 2013, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer. Within a few days, she began an online journal for her friends and family, to share news, stay connected, and process what was happening to even the smallest details of her life. We are bringing this journal to The Sounding so that we can all walk along with Christine, and so that each of you has a chance to meet the special, brave, funny woman who is taking this journey. We all have something in common with her.


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