The Hokey Pokey

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One of the best, and sometimes the worst, things about being a writer is having a very active imagination. How often do you meet someone for the first time, or overhear a piece of a conversation, and immediately withdraw from the world around you to concoct a story or poem in your mind? This happened to me at the gym one day.

I sat down at a weight machine and after making adjustments, I looked up and realized I was seated across from an open door which led to a studio. Inside, a woman and a man sat on chairs facing each other. With my headphones blaring full-blast, I felt cozily comfortable watching them from behind my imaginary shield of workout music. As the woman lifted one foot and rotated it, the man copying her movement, I thought that I was watching a very low turnout for a Silver Sneakers class. But then I quickly realized that I was actually witnessing a different program my gym offered – MINDful Movement, a class for people with dementia and their caregivers.

I continued my exercises as the man and woman continued theirs: First they lifted and rotated their right legs, then they clapped their hands and thighs. Then they lifted and rotated their left legs, then clapped their hands and thighs. When they began to raise their right hands, I realized they were dancing the Hokey Pokey. And immediately I had visions of this man, many years ago, performing these same movements at his daughter’s birthday party, surrounded by a dozen giddy pre-schoolers. Then maybe again, a couple decades later, at her wedding, in front of smiling, laughing guests. And maybe again, not so long ago, with his grandchildren, their mother standing to one side while taking a video. And perhaps the woman sitting in front of him was his daughter, a grandmother herself now, and today she was the one leading him in this old dance.

The Hokey Pokey ended, the two arose, put away their chairs, and left the room. A few minutes later, I looked out the window to the parking lot and saw the man leaving the gym with a different woman by his side. I suppose I had let my imagination run away with me, when I conjured a familial relationship between the man and the woman in the studio and assigned significance to the Hokey Pokey.

Tell me about your experiences with active imaginations, caregiving, or the Hokey Pokey at

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