Movers and Shakers

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The salt and pepper shakers belonged to his great-grandmother, but they didn’t come to him until his own mother passed away. He was in his early sixties then, an old man himself, and his mama had been pushing ninety when she’d slipped away in the night. He’d been grateful for that: how long she lived as well as how she died.

The shakers were cream colored and made of smooth, cool ceramic. An orange and yellow flower blossoming from a faded olive green stem graced both sides of each shaker, and a fine spider web of cracking had developed in the glaze on the shaker used for pepper. Seven holes created a “P” in the top of one and an “S” on the other.

They made him think of his childhood, his adolescence, holidays with his parents and his own children. Looking at them created lingering aromas in the air: pecan pie, roast beef with brown gravy, Thanksgiving turkey basting in its own delicious juices. Sometimes he could even taste the food, his tongue salivating for imagined homemade ice cream or baked chicken like only Mama could make.

Despite such memories, his mama had never really liked cooking. She cooked because she had to, for her family, not because she wanted to. Oh, she was a good cook, of course. She made chocolate chip cookies from scratch to melt in your mouth, but it wasn’t her hobby. What Mama loved to do was dance.

She never had any professional training, but Mama could move. Even now he could see his mother in his mind, waltzing slowly around the living room as she sang his little sister to sleep or tap dancing on the concrete of the back patio while the grandkids ran through the sprinklers. She couldn’t seem to hold still.

Yes, his mama loved to dance. The salt and pepper shakers made him think of two dance partners, forever sharing the table as their stage. Mama had loved to dance with a partner, to foxtrot and tango and rumba, and, of course, her preferred partner had been Daddy. They were always the first couple on the dance floor, even in their seventies. After fifty years they still looked like starry eyed teenagers when they were spinning in each other’s arms.

His marriage hadn’t been quite the same. After close to ten years and close to a million quarrels, it had ended in a mixture of relief and heartache. Now, looking at the two shakers, he wondered if they should have talked less and danced more.

The shakers reminded him of his parents. Mama had been the pepper, spicing up life and speckling everything with flavor. Daddy was salt: steady and good and always there to reach for. And in his mind, like the shakers, Mama and Daddy would always be dancing cheek to cheek.



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