At 8:15 every morning I take a water aerobics class because Big Girls need fitness too. And because while my breasts are cumbersome, vexing impediments to my speed while on land, they make excellent built-in flotation devices. Buoyant things, those GGs.
So anyway, it’s me and the oumas in the pool every morning. At first I was apprehensive to join the class, because let’s face it – as soon as you read the words “water aerobics” images of giggling, wrinkly, flushed pink ladies swathed in floral swim caps and matching bathing suits materialized in your mind. And you are right. The average age of the Aqua Oumas (the name I have affectionately dubbed them but haven’t had the guts to sell to the group yet) is roughly 70. And you’re right about the giggling too. There is a rhythm to our mornings. The requisite pleasantries, rubs on the back and the breaking off into cliques to get in some skinner/gossip before class officially starts are all necessary parts of our routine. I never understood what anyone could have to be so happy about at that hour of the day until I joined this group. Every woman – and the occasional oupa who loses his way from the rows of rowing machines and slides into the water with us – is a water baby. How can you not be happy if you begin your day in your element?
The great thing about water aerobics is that it is both low in impact and demand on the participant. When I first joined, I matched the group’s energy, gracefully and lazily sweeping the water with my hands, barely causing ripples with my kicks beneath the surface. Then I remembered how much I was paying in fees and increased my intensity. My new need to kick and lunge frantically has never thrown off the Aqua Ouma’s customary placid rhythm, even on Mondays.
What happens on Mondays, you ask. I shall tell you.
We have three different instructors and on Mondays, Sam plays music. The ladies really look forward to it. Sam’s playlist is a hodgepodge of randomness. Phil Collins, Shakira, Elvis. Yesterday her playlist was a lot more cohesive. It featured Donna Summer, Michael Jackson circa Off The Wall, and Kool and the Gang. Someone must’ve lent Sam their Ultimate Black BBQ soundtrack because it had all the hits. I was pumped. I pumped my knees. I pumped my arms. The Aqua Ouma’s continued sweeping gracefully through the water.
And then ABBA came on.
The whole pool
These women lost their minds. They were kicking and flailing and now matching Sam beat for beat. The elderly couple that shares a hearing aid got out of the water and began doing a sock-hop with each other. And at one point, one lady just said fuhgeddit and ceased doing any synchronized moves at all.
She was no longer with us. She was elsewhere, presumably at Studio 54. Probably riding bare chested and bare back on a horse.
All around me I heard joyous singing, high above the volume of the stereo:
“Waterloo! Som’n som’n som’n Waterloo. WATERLOO!!!…”
I had to stop moving, primarily so that I wouldn’t drown myself laughing and secondly so that I could take in and fully appreciate the spectacle unfolding before me. The lady going off had lost all sense of space and was backing steadily into me. I gave her all the space she needed. When the song eventually tapered off, I swam over to Crunk Ouma and cheekily said:
“Well! We know WHO was up in the club when this song came out.”
She was exultant.
“Oh! You have no idea. That glass bowl hanging from the ceiling…”
“…shooting light all over the room,” I continued.
She closed her eyes and was once again transported 40 years back, murmuring the chorus and rocking her shoulders. Then, as if she suddenly became aware of her person and place, she opened her eyes and smiled sheepishly.
“I’ve obviously just dated myself…”
“Eh. So what!” I waved my hand dismissively. “You were young, you had a blast and that’s all that counts.”
We grinned at each other, Sam took us through the cool down and everyone exited the pool much, much happier than they got in…Something I never thought was possible.
Do you remember the video about Henry, the hospice patient with Alzheimer’s and his reaction to hearing music from his era?
While the Aqua Ouma’s incident is not as extreme in its severity, it does speak to the same point, which is the potency and power of music. Music – like water – can be a healing or destructive force. It unifies. It hold the secrets to time travel!
Every generation has that song. You know what I’m talking about: The one that was so perfect in its execution that got everyone on the floor, even the stiffest wallflower. If you’re lucky enough to have your grandparents around, ask them about it. I would love to know.
One day, if each of us reading this is lucky, we’ll be 70-something curiosities to a new generation. What will your jam be, if asked? Mine is Knuck if You Buck. Now, given my proximity to a pulpit, I wish I could say with honesty that it is a Winans song, or Kirk Franklin song, or something equally appropriate, but it’s honestly not.
Ouma: ‘Afrikaans for ‘Granny’