It’s one of those nights where you can tell that the day was scorching hot but come dusk you find yourself needing a sweater. The weather was the same the night of my grandparent’s wedding anniversary. My grandparents had been married for fifty years. I was only seven years old and got to attend the big family gathering. Everything was white and green. The party was held at a traditional historic farm house. It was placed in the middle of a green field, facing a lake. At the other end of the field there was a gazebo, just like in The Sound of Music. The venue was old and the floors creaked when I walked across the boards in my shiny new shoes. There were flowers and candles placed atop the white table cloths. There was a separate space for a dance floor. In my seven-year old mind, my imagination had a field day. I pretended we were at a fancy ball, eating cake and sipping raspberry cordial just like Anne of Green Gables. My grandparents showed up to the party in a white limousine. They were both radiant. As I was writing this blog, I had to look back at pictures of them from that day to make sure that I got each detail accurately. Did they really emanate such joy, or is my imagination still getting the better of me? But the pictures proved it. They really were happy on that day; their day.
As the day went on my family mingled with all of our distant relatives. My cousins and I had other plans in mind – we took to the outdoors to play. But after the dinner was served I stayed in the farmhouse celebration hall and listened to the speeches honoring my grandparents. I watched as people would clink their forks against the crystal wine glasses. The cake was white too. Following the speeches and cake, the music came on to indicate that it was time for everyone to dance. At first I thought the music was terrible! It was…old. So old, that my parents didn’t even listen to it. I didn’t know any of the words. I walked out to the balcony and got a chill as I went outside. The unexpected cold from a previously hot day didn’t keep me outside for long. As I walked along the balcony back to the entrance of the hall, I was enchanted by the soft lighting that glimmered against the stars. When I returned inside from the cold, my grandparents were dancing in each other’s arms. They were the only two on the dance floor, dancing to ‘Stardust’ by Nat King Cole. I was entranced by the song’s melody, the words and Cole’s voice. I sat and watched them dance at our assigned table next to my Mum and she whispered to me; “That’s your Grandma and Grandpa’s song’. I smiled and looked back at my grandparents and I finally got it – they shared one song. That song represented them as a couple and after fifty years it was a song that was still meaningful to them. It was at that moment that I discovered my definition of romance. Good old fashioned romance.
When I look back at my younger days, I could argue with myself that I was naive. To dream up a perfect picture of romance at such a young age and stick to those ideals as I matured has probably been counter-intuitive. Over the years I have seen the harsh realities of romance. Life events have occurred where romance was not reciprocated, or was toxic, or worst of all, romance that sadly just didn’t exist anymore. But then, unexpectedly, whether it’s at an old-fashioned restaurant or playing in the background on an elevator, I hear ‘Stardust’. The song brings tears to my eyes and I remember the love story of my grandparents. They met during the Second World War. My Grandfather was a soldier and my Grandmother was a young woman who lived in a small town where my Grandpa was stationed. He met her at a party and it was love.
To be realistic, they met during a time of war, of chaos. Decisions that were made in those days were made in haste. Perhaps they married too young, experienced regret or endured challenges. But the circumstances of the era that brought them together are probably what had helped them stand the test of time. They were able to offer each other a comfort and security because they shared the same experiences of living in a world of warfare. It is their story that reassures me that I should not fault myself for growing up as a hopeless romantic. They were married for sixteen more years after that enchanted summer evening.
Apart from my memories of that night, the music of my grandparent’s generation continues to act as a constant to help me relive my ideals of romance. I’ve been listening to the following tracks all week and have been thinking about my grandparents, trying to remember the little details of their fiftieth anniversary celebration. If you ever have doubts about love or have a jaded definition of romance – I encourage you to have a listen to at least one of these tracks. Trust me, being a romantic isn’t half bad – ya dig?
Forties Playlist of Swing & Jazz
Summertime – Artie Shaw
Cottontail – Duke Ellington
Take the ‘A’ Train – Billy Strayhorn
Groovin’ High – Charlie Parker
I’ll Be Seeing You – Billie Holiday
Yes Indeed – Sy Oliver
Embraceable You – Nat King Cole
Stardust – Nat King Cole
Good Rockin’ Tonight – Wynonie Harris
Billie’s Bounce – Charlie Parker
Five Minutes More – Frank Sinatra
Moonlight Cocktail – Glenn Miller
Besame Mucho – Jimmy Dorsey
Till The End of Time – Perry Como
Suburban Eyes – Thelonious Monk