Guest Blog Post by Moira Macgregor-Conrad “May I have this Dance?”

The only things that I knew about Moira before I met her was that she had lovely long hair and looked very nice with pierced ears. Our mutual paternal grandmother, Helen , told me this after her trip to see “the family in California”.

Helen/Wee Nellie Macgregor

Our gran was a ferocious and strange little person.  She was one of these Scottish women who would stop and chat merrily to someone else in the street asking after the other party’s gout, grandchildren and funeral plans. No sooner had the other party departed, she would turn to me and say “See that one? She’s a spark oot of hell so she is. I wouldnae pee on her if she was oan fire. How’s school hen?”

Gran was very keen on Moira and apparently similarly keen on me, so I’m told even though I:

  • consistently failed to get my ears pierced despite years of constant encouragement from her; and
  • had all my long hair sliced off when I was ten.

Gran was always delighted with Moira’s dress sense, jewellery and hairstyles and would be completely chuffed to bits with Moira’s choice of career. Once upon a time Moira would have been known as a wardrobe mistress and she has won awards for her work.

At the moment she is the Supervisor is in charge of the costumes and dressers the Broadway production of on the “Dividing the Estate” by Horton Foote. She is the person who makes sure that everyone looks period perfect (see below).

Dividing the Estate at the Booth Theatre on Broadway & 45th, NYC

Moira still looks very pretty, still has the long hair, the pierced ears and the gorgeous slim figure that she had in the Eighties. The former is despite her legendary, long term love of Del Taco Mexican food.

She has great genes though…

Moira's dad (& my uncle) outside the Cathedral Church of Saint Mirin in Paisley

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If there is one thing I have learned from reading this blog, it is that shoes are so much more than items that cover our feet.  Of course, what we choose to put on our feet is a very definite reflection of our individual taste and personalities.  This is knew.  What I didn’t understand, until I agreed to the requests to write this guest blog, was how a pair of shoes could open the flood gates of memory and emotion.

Let me begin by saying that I have always loved to dance, I’ve just never been very good or very confident at it.  In private, I can cut a rug with the best of them.  In public, I need some help from my good friend Captain Morgan before I feel comfortable.

When I was younger, we would go to social gatherings at The Melrose Club, which was basically a meeting place for ex-pat Scottish folk.  At these events, there would be food, and chat, and drinks, and…dancing.  My Mum and Dad would quick-step around the room looking, to my eyes, as utterly graceful as Fred and Ginger.  (My Mum would often reminisce about going to the dance halls back home in Paisley, and floating around the room to Glenn Miller’s “Little Brown Jug”.  She always seemed so happy remembering those times).  Now, when we were going to these dances/club gatherings, the average age of a Melrose Club member was probably in their 50s, while I and the other young adults were in our teens.  I had never danced in public to the big bands.  Hell, I had probably only danced in public to the New Wave sounds of the early ’80s at school dances.  Yet, watching my Mum and Dad circle the floor, I knew I wanted nothing more than to get out on there and give it a try.

Moira & Chris Conrad - Wedding Dance

I got my chance.  My Dad asked me to dance, and even though I had never done it before, he made me feel like Ginger Rogers and Cyd Charisse, all rolled into one graceful package.  That night, I learned how important a strong lead is, and my Dad was a strong lead.  At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to learn how to ballroom dance, so I could circle the floor with my Dad again.

Fast forward 16 years to 2002, my wedding day.  My wonderful new husband had known how important it was for me to feel comfortable in our First Dance, so he too an introductory “Bride and Groom’s First Dance” class with me.  We pieced together a routine to Frank Sinatra’s “More”, and performed a somewhat awkward, but ultimately rewarding, slow fox trot.  My biggest regret of that day was the fact that my Dad had died before I got my chance to dance with him at my wedding.  I’m sure that in his arms that slow fox trot would have become an elegant quick step.  I do have a wonderful memory to help balance out that painful one.  My best friend’s father, whom I have known for 30 years, knowing how much I was missing my on Dad, asked me if he could have the dance.  Even though something was missing, I still felt graceful.  The art of being a strong lead is fast disappearing, thank goodness there are still men out there who know how to make their partner look good.

Fast forward once  more to 2008, and the reason I am writing this guest blog.  My husband and I now live in New York City.  He still knows how much I wish I could dance, and when I opened my Christmas gifts, among them are private ballroom dance classes at Fred Astaire Studios in Manhattan.  My husband and I have been attending classes for over a year now, and in that time we have learned how to fox trot, waltz, tango, rhumba, and mambo.  He has learned how to lead, and I have learned how to follow.  I have also purchased something I never would have guessed I would own, my very own pair of black t-strap sueded ballroom dance shoes.

Dance Shoes

These shoes aren’t glamourous.  They aren’t gold, or silver, or sparkly.  They are a very basic edition of dance shoe, but they represent so much more than a mere aesthetic.  They represent the time spent with my husband learning something new.  They illustrate the love the husband feels for me in giving his time to something he knows is important to me.  And, they are a very real reminder of why I wanted to learn how to dance in the first place.

One of the best looking boys in Paisley - Ready for the Dancing

I wish I could strap on my shoes, take my father’s hand, and dance just one more time to Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”.  This time, Dad wouldn’t have to work so hard to make me look like Ginger Rogers.  We could dance more as equals.  Yet I know I would still be guided by my Dad’s strong lead.

5 thoughts on “Guest Blog Post by Moira Macgregor-Conrad “May I have this Dance?”

  1. A charming story which was delightful to read. the thing about familial stories and the poignant memories they cause to flutter around one’s head like a myriad of exquisite butterflies is that they are the essence of immortality. it is said and, perhaps rightly so, that our memories and our children are our infinities to extended life or, put more dryly, our immortality. thank you for sharing these thoughts and yes, billy was a fine dancer. I, like you, suffered and still do suffer from two basic flaws or, maybe that should be three. two of these are my two left feet and the other, well, a relentless embarrassment accompanied by a spreading pinkish shyness that slowly starts from the neck and moves relentlessly up.

    with regard to “wee nellie” this was never an expression I used about my mother but was used more often than not by billy. the reason for this was he was much closer to my father’s family who had an ongoing civil war with her. he simply acquired the expression from them. she had a remarkable intelligence which was hardly ever used to its full extent. well, if you are the last child in a family of fifteen you do learn your place in the pecking order. her linguistic gift with couthy earthy phrases was exemplary and my choicest plum from the basket of wisdom was the following which, of course, I will not place in a context as it will be obvious to any reader. “I widnae gie her a reek of my shite”. now, that surely is poetry in its most pristine and crystalline form. not bettered by even billy connolly.

    • The thing about my Dad was, he had a natural confidence that was apparent in everything he did, including dancing. This is the thing i have to work at. I have learned the steps, I have learned how to follow (and trust me, that is no easy thing to do), but I still feel uncomfortable thinking about everyone looking at me, even though the odds are very good that no one is really all that interested in how I’m dancing. The older I get, the more confident I feel. Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to dance the way I want to dance. With ease and joy. I think that would make my Dad happy.

  2. That was freakin lovely … I got a wee bit emotional when I read that.

    I’m so glad that you have learned to dance with your lovely husband Moira – and your dancing shoes are perfect !

    I’m sorry that you didn’t get to dance with your dad at your wedding but your friends father sounds like a good man for recognising your needs – wow.

    Good luck and best wishes to you both, burn up the floor sista!

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