Thursday, 24 March 2011

My Mother Was a Dancer

Here is another re-post, with apologies to those who are getting fed up with me. Sometimes remembering the past jolts my decaying brain cells and points me to another 'story'. 

First posted-
Oct 7, 2008 4:18 PM

by Moannie
No, that is not her dancing with Victor Silvester, the Len Goodman of his day, at least I don't think so. I found this picture, from 1930, in Google images, when she would have been nineteen. The resemblance to mother is strong and I know there were photos of her with him but I cannot swear that this is one of them.

A lot of the stories told to us by our parents have to be taken on trust and my belief in the validity of her tales is strengthened by the fact that, although mother had her faults, lying was not one of them.
Mother was the product of her mother's seduction by the son of the couple she worked for as a maid in a large house in one of London's famous Squares. According to family history, the father was a Viscount. My dear Aunt Midge always promised to tell me 'the name', but died with her lips sealed. My Grandmother could not bear the sight of the product of her 'shame' and mother left home very young. Dates are sketchy...oh how I wish I had paid more attention, asked more questions...the young are more interested in themselves; but sometime between leaving home and having her first child in 1932, mum was a showgirl and a dancer.
I had a picture of her that I treasured, sadly it was forgotten and left, with many other irreplaceable pictures, in a box on top of a cupboard when we emigrated to Canada. She is on stage, in a tableau with a dozen other girls. She is posed, kneeling sideways on to the camera, her arms behind her, her head back, and she is very nude. She looked like one of those small ivory and bronze statues...very beautiful.
Victor Silvester was a Bandleader, born in 1900, and was very very famous up until the day he died in 1978. His sound was 'strict tempo', no flying solos, no fireworks, just 'slow, slow, quick quick, slow'. He had started out as a dance teacher and continued to teach even as a bandleader. Mother was just one of his many partners.
Mum would dance at the drop of a hat [if my stepfather was not around] Back would go the furniture and she would pull one or another of us into her arms and try to teach us the intricacies of the waltz, the foxtrot or the quick step, her long legs gliding, her arms lined to perfection, and her feet, in the high heels she loved, pointed and elegant.
The dancing stopped for her, in the early fifties, when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was 44.
The illness progressed very slowly, little by little taking away all her joi de vivre. We had been estranged for a number of years, not surprising really, given our history, but when I heard of her illness I went to see her and we made a sort of peace. By then she was walking with two sticks, had gained weight and lost her sparkle; no more flirting with the milkman, no more singing and no more dancing.
Much later...a marriage and three children later, we were in a position to offer her a haven in the Retirement Home that we owned. By now a quadriplegic she spent all her time in her room on the first floor. She had a Possum machine that could open and close doors, turn lights and the TV and radio on and off, and could turn the pages of her book, simply with the power of Puff and Blow. Her favourite paintings and photographs were on the walls and we were living in the building, so she had family around her. I think she grew to love me.
She read extensively and watched quite a lot of television, especially, and to me, amazingly, Cricket and Snooker. But the one program that gave her the most pleasure, was 'Come Dancing'. For there, with his 'slow, slow, quick quick slow,' was Victor Silvester and his Band. That first series of shows, which continued for many years, was a contest of amateurs, with professional dancers giving exhibitions. The women's gowns were full and flowing fluffy layers of tulle in glorious pastel colours and the men wore white tie and tails. It was an extravaganza of nostalgia, and mum was in heaven.
Now, when I watch Strictly Come Dancing, or the American Version, Dancing with the Stars, I smile, and can see mother, gliding and skipping and swaying, and hear her singing, in time to the music: Slow, slow, quick quick slow.
Written for mum.

I cannot walk, or wash my face
And the things you do that are commonplace
Are realms of fantasy for me.

A grandchild's gift
to be carefully chosen
Is an ordinary thing through which my dreams are woven.

My gratitude for simple things is tinged with blue
Better to do for others
Than have them done for you.

Bet yet, I live, and breathe
And while a can, my being here, and being
Is enough, and I'll not grieve.

For I have given life three times
And done the best I know
So there will be something here of me
Even when I go.

Awarded Post of the day at Authorblog, thank David!


  1. This is such a beautifully moving post! Thank you..

  2. As always your writing so moves me Moannie. I'm trying to repair a bad relationship with a Mom who is slowly approaching dementia. I ask for the stories of her youth and treasure each one. I really need to start writing them down before they fade away from me like she is. Thanks for sharing another special moment.

  3. Such a beautiful post.
    You really had me going with that picture though..... before you said it resembled your mum.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  4. What a wonderful, heart-warming story. I love it. I have always said there is nothing better in the world than forgiveness, both for the giver and the recipient. It is amazing to me that you could find it in your heart to not only forgive your mum, but to also look after her when she needed you most....even though it seemed she abandoned you and your brother when you needed her most. You are one in a million!

  5. A very lovely poem. To have captured it all in such brief lines. You came from fascinating genes...and I think the women in the photo looks a little like you, so who is to say she is not a distant relative?

  6. Moved and teary eyed.
    write a book!!!

  7. This was beautiful, touching, heartbreaking, and amazing. I agree; write a book, please.

  8. How very sad to be a vivacious, dancing person and be struck with something slow and insidious like MS. I'm sorry your mother had to go through that.

    Lovely to hear she had a room with you in the end though, and you mended your fences.

  9. Mum,

    I know this is a revisited post, but jeez it still haunts me, it's here in the back of my throat...

    see you soon!

    Luv Sazzie xx

  10. btw MY blog has disappeared too now!!! WTF!!

    sazzie xx

  11. Such a beautifully moving and touching post, Moannie. You absolutely broke my heart with "I think she grew to love me." Hugs to you.

  12. There are so many things in this post that are lovely. The writing, the poem, you caring for your mom, the memory of come dancing (I too loved to watch it and those dresses were just fabulous....I so wanted to wear one)and if you think she grew to love you then she did.
    ps. Saz....have been wondering where your blog was! what has happened?
    pps there is also a 'fathered by a posh rich son' back in my mothers history....all those poor maids that no doubt had terrible lives anyway then had to contend with being pregnant and shunted off somewhere.....

  13. Thank you Moanie. What I love about your writing, about your perspective, is your making peace with the world. At the end of the day there's no much point to holding a grudge or carrying anger or regret with you. I am inspired by your propensity to forgive.

  14. You know, I was fine until that poem. Now I'm all blurry.

  15. Thank you for the re-run; I can't think how I could have missed this wonderful post the first time around. Beautifully written, Moannie.

  16. i don't recall reading this before so i enjoyed the repost of it. amazing what memories a little tv show can evoke when there is such history there.

  17. Ooh! I have to use your excuse for re-posting things. Sounds much better than my "I'm a lazy bugger." :-)

  18. A wonderfully poignant story of relationships, lost and found. Very worthy of Hilary's POTW.

  19. A beautiful and moving tribute. My Nana had MS, though not to the same degree, still... let me just say, I know what you mean.

    Congratulations on a well-deserved potw, repost or not.

  20. What a beautiful and poignant piece! Great tribute to your mom!!
    Congrats on your POTW award

  21. Very good mother dancer. Thnak you very much for sharing. Ilike it this post sharing. yemek tarifleri | yemek tarifi |emlak | konut |çelik kapı | çelik kapı | tercüme | çeviri | airport transfer | istanbul transfer | seo

  22. Congrats to you, too!! Very deserving of POTW.
    You write so well, and the stories of your mother are wrenching.

  23. By the way, are you aware that your daughter's blog address now directs to an advertisement? Is she aware? Just thought you might like to know.

  24. Beautiful and touching story. I always find it fascinating to get a peak into the past of peoples lives. We all have treasures and secrets we carry in our family history chest.;)
    How sad for your mom to suffer such a disease, and already be diagnosed at 44 (which is my current age). I can not even imagine getting such a news as I am about to embark on a new direction in my life, still somehow starting over.;)
    On another note - thank you so much for stopping by my place yesterday via Hilary's and for your very kind comment.;)

  25. "I think she grew to love me."

    OH! My hand literally went to my heart. Seven little words that speak of hopefulness, of sorrow and welcomed loved, of a sort of forgiveness.

    Repeat or not, this is certainly award-worthy. Congratulations.

  26. Making peace with one's destiny is a true blessing.

  27. P.S.:
    I miss a certain blog out there.

  28. Reading your posts makes me understand life better. Somehow in between our ambitions and wants we tend to disregard the fact that life is also about compromise and regret. And making peace with this aspect of life is the only way to happiness or atleast contentment. I am much younger (in my early 30s) and "viewing life from the other end" does provide balancing out effect for me... thank you moanie!

  29. It's hard to know where to start. My sister was diagnosed with MS when her twin boys were four years old. Six years on although the progression is insidious it is thankfully, partly due to a multitude of drugs, relativly slow. I want to help her as much as she wants not to need help.

    My Mother also seems unable to express maternal love but through my own children Ive learned acceptance and fogiveness (if not understanding). I chose to believe it is there and she is just caught in a hall of mirrors, confronted by her own reflection a thousand times over without the realisation that there is a way through and we are waiting for her on the outside.