by Lynne Marshall
I was saddened by Maeve Binchy’s death last year, as I had enjoyed so many of her books, I kind of felt like I knew her.
The last book I’d read of hers was Heart and Soul. “Maeve Binchy tells a story of doctors and staff, patients, family, and friends at a heart clinic in a community caught between the old Ireland and the new.” That’s what part of the book synopsis reveals, and, as a Medical Romance author, having the story take place around a cardiac clinic got my attention.
Anyone who reads Ms. Binchy knows that she likes to throw several characters together by some sudden change, then follow this one or that one off into their personal lives, then do the same for the next and the next until circling back around to the big part of the book, and where they all fit in.
Which reminded me of, and leads me to, another Maeve Binchy book that I thoroughly enjoyed called Evening Class. “A class called Introduction to Italian. A class where people from every walk of life come together. A class where long-buried hopes come alive again.” I loved how the diverse group of characters slowly became friends as they studied the basics of this new language, and how they eventually planned a group trip to Italy.
So you may be scratching your head about now, wondering what in the heck all this has to do with low impact aerobics, right?
In typical Maeve Binchy fashion, I’ll tell my part of the overall story. I’ve always prided myself on being physically fit and healthy, but over the last year I’ve been hit with a couple of setbacks. I tore my retina then I broke a bone in my foot. Nothing major, but both conditions stopped my forward momentum in the exercise department for several months.
Fast forward to low impact aerobics. When I realized I couldn’t comfortably continue my all girls’ gym workouts, I went searching for something less stressful. A flyer came to my house for Adult Education courses, and I found the ad for low impact aerobics and quickly signed up. Then I realized the class was at the local Senior Center. I rationalized that it was a new building and probably had to utilize as many rooms as possible for financial reasons.
When I walked in on the first day of class, I almost turned around and walked right back out. Everyone was definitely a senior citizen – 70s all the way to one 90 year old! Yes, I’m a baby boomer, but surely I don’t belong here yet! I’m not ready for this! The class can’t possibly suit my needs.
The instructor played music from the forties and fifties while we exercised, she also had a tendency to speak to us like we were children – probably expecting most of us to be senile? Also, the teacher engaged all of the students in conversation while we went through the stretching routines—there around sixteen of us–which gives this writer a chance to learn new things.
Being fair minded, I let all of the above roll off my back along with the age bit, and took a chair. Yes you read right, we exercise in chairs!
Well, we start out that way, anyway. Each part of the body gets thoroughly stretched while sitting in that chair, and guess what, it doesn’t bother my still-sensitive foot (the one with the newly-healed broken bone). Next we use balls to work our abdomens and legs, then we stand to do more stretching exercises, then free weights for our arms. After a short break—it’s a two hour class—we come back and do mild dancing for the aerobics portion.
Notice I’ve shifted from I don’t belong here to we? Once I dropped my pride and said, I’ll try it once, I was hooked. The class is exactly what I need. Besides, how often can a woman my age be the youngest in the room?
Just like Maeve Binchy’s Evening Class, I’ve come to learn so much about everyone in the class. We consist of diverse cultures and life experiences. There’s a Chinese couple, a Japanese lady with a name that rhymes with taco, An African American man with early Parkinson’s, a red-headed woman named Rusty (who used to be a natural redhead, but now she’s just going for that look), and there’s the ninety year old lady who likes to sing at the end of one particular dance song and who can still do the boot scootin’ boogie be it an extremely modified version, plus another American couple who each has one bad knee and who hobbles through the dance routines but they don’t give up. And more.
As I already mentioned, it’s kind of nice to be the “youngest” again. They miss me when I skip a class, worry about anyone who misses more than once, and we always sing happy birthday for the guilty parties. The last birthday girl floored me. This cute little peppy lady who always sits on my right and who volunteers as an usher at our local Cultural Arts Center had turned 81! I thought for sure she was in her early seventies. You never know, right?
It got me to thinking—wouldn’t it be interesting to learn the four men and twelve women’s stories? Or as a writer worth her salt, I could make up all of their stories and write my own Maeve Binchy-styled book titled Adult School. I’d switch back between the 1940s, 1950s and the present. Hmm, I think I’m on to something.
I may not be emotionally ready for this class held at the senior center, but, like any good Maeve Binchy novel, the interaction suits my needs. I feel a part of the group. We do line dances, waltzes (no partners, just moving around the room – one-two-three, one-two-three) the Charleston, the cha-cha, you name it! After each dance we have to check our pulses to make sure we’re challenging our hearts. I usually am.
Though I’ll admit I enjoy the class and the diverse students, and the senior center offers excursions to all kinds of places, don’t count this baby-boomer in any time soon for taking a road trip with the old folks!
Have you ever felt like a fish out of water, and how did you work it out?
Lynne’s two current books: