Written on My Heart
Elita Sohmer Clayman

Written on my heart is such a beautiful line. I saw it in a death notice of a lady who died and one of her coworkers said she had such a good heart and soul and that being around her was like having something written on his heart. What a lovely saying.

Can you go back in your life experiences and think about at least two people other than your parents and possibly your siblings have touched your heart in many ways. We expect our parents and our brothers and or sisters to at one time or another to stroke our feelings. If we are lucky, we do experience that with our families now and then or many times. We remember those precious moments as good memories and we treasure them.

Meeting someone in your life other than your spouse or significant other is a moment in time we value. Meeting a stranger in our life who designates us as their friend and one day you realize that maybe something they have done becomes written on your heart. Young children in school will have a special and dear teacher who sees something rare in them and in turn nurtures them and she or he becomes written on this child’s heart forever. I had a teacher like that back in junior high school (now called middle school). She picked me out, I do not know why and she liked me. She had given us our seats in the homeroom and she started backwards with the alphabet and somehow I wound up right next to her desk. I was upset at first being so close to the homeroom and French teacher combined. I thought in my twelve year old mind, what did I do to deserve this? We met the last day of school when we were placed in the classroom for about an hour so we could get to know her. Her name was Olga Virginia Bawden and until the day she died a few years ago, we kept in contact. She looked at me that middle of June day in nineteen forty-six and said to me, Elita, when summer is over, I expect to see nice and long nails on your fingers, not the bitten off ones there now.

All summer I thought of that and did let the nails grow and no longer bit them as many teenage girls did in those days. You see, Olga had gorgeous manicured fingernails and she wanted me to have them too. The older kids did not like her when school started as she was a bit severe. She was and everyone admitted a fine and eloquent French teacher and we learned to read and speak French. When my husband and I went to Paris in nineteen hundred seventy-two, I honored Ms. Bawden because I still could read French and even converse with people there because she had taught us well.

You could say that she had written the French on my heart with her excellent teaching methods and her sometimes tough learning ways. I invited her to my wedding, she did not come. By then, she was up in years and had moved a distance from where I lived. She continued to send me holiday cards and one year they stopped arriving. I found out that she had passed away a few months before the holiday season. Once when I was eighteen, I met her for lunch in a department store cafeteria. I had not seen her since I was fourteen and had graduated from the junior high school.

She was dressed beautifully as she always had been when I was a young girl and yes, she still had the long and manicured nails. So did I. Now I was a young adult and she was a senior citizen and we were not like teacher and a kid, we were like two ladies. One a young woman and the other in senior land. She had never married, her fiancé was killed in the Second World War and she remained single. She always wore the earrings he had given her with a flight design on them. She wore them that day when we had lunch.

I told her then how she had influenced not only my nails, but she had influenced my life with her love of French things and her love of teaching. I did not say she had written something on my heart, I did tell her that I would never forget her. She told me that I was like the daughter she never had and would never have. She told me she picked me out that first day which was the last day of the previous semester and that she had purposely put me in the seat next to her desk. She did not say why but she said she knew she could be a positive and educational presence in my life. She did say that I had lived up to her expectations as a young girl approaching teenage life and after me and before me there were others. I was the only one who kept in touch, she said and she felt like it was meant to be.

If you all look back, you will discover someone who placed you in a situation and made your acquaintance happen and somehow he or she helped to influence your life and possibly you theirs. Many of you can look back if you are a ballroom dancer now and see who it was that kept you going at this wonderful hobby and if it was not for him or her, you would not be ballroom dancing now.

Merv Griifin just passed away and he picked out several personalities to be on his show and made them stars. He picked out Vanna White to host his Wheel of Fortune show and he said that he knew immediately when he saw her, he wanted her as hostess. The rest is show business history for her and dozens of others that he saw something special in them and by their own sheer will and his choosing of them, they are now stars.

Now we are not stars in that sense of the word, but we are stars in our own worlds. Ballroom dancers have dancing written on their hearts because they truly love this thing called dance. They love it in a special way that sets them apart from people who play golf, play tennis, play cards or even play other sports. Ballroom dancing is a world unto itself and we who are the recipients of its influence and impact sometimes wonder why we are doing this. Then we realize that it has become so ingrained in our bodies and hearts that we could not refrain from participating in it even if we wanted to stop. It is habit forming and we actually crave it when we are away from it.

Our first dance teacher was Laurence E. Miller. We called him Larry. He was a young teacher but he gave me the inspiration to keep on dancing and that we did. He and I competed in several cities throughout the country and any trophies or medals that I won were due to his persistent encouragement for me to excel. He now has his own studio in Maine and I know he still motivates his students, young or seniors. Bravo to teachers like Larry who change our lives by their encouragement for us to do well. The love for ballroom dancing that I have started with Larry and his stimulating my heart to be a ballroom dancer.

It is a good craving and will not harm us. It has become written on our hearts and we never want to have it ‘unwritten.’ It is the beauty in our life because every time we go and dance, we create a delightful happening and we are the center of it. We are the special person that I was in junior high school to Ms. Bawden. I let my nails grow that summer to impress her, a stranger to me then. She no longer was a stranger after the first semester. She was my friend, my mentor. So is ballroom dancing, it is our mentor, our friend, our heart written experience. It is a part of our life that we never want to leave us. It gives us motive, desire, results and most of all it gives us meaning.

Ballroom dancing is a delightful and fulfilling experience. May it never be silenced from our spirit because our heart has been written upon for eternity. It has been said that eternity is made up of no where and no when. It is the sum of the sums. To ‘sum’ it up, I cannot imagine my life without what ballroom dancing has bestowed upon me. Writing about my feelings on dance is a great fulfillment in my life. I know my readers all feel the same emotion about it. Ballroom dancing is written on our heart for eternity.

Elita Sohmer Clayman
Baltimore, Maryland
November 2007

Keep on Dancing


Published by René Zgraggen
Montgomery, AL