Thursday, November 28, 2013

Son of Grammar Snob

It must have been a long day at school because I'll admit my reaction was on the "strong" side, to put a pretty face on it.  I was driving home, listening to NPR's "All Things Considered" on KUT, our local affiliate here in Austin.

The narrative drew me in, as NPR so often does.  I found myself nodding my head here and there at salient points the story covered, when I heard this line:

"My friend's daughters received the help they needed, but this was not the case for my family and I."

Suddenly I went from nodding my head amiably to screaming at my radio console.  "'My family and ME!' 'My family and ME!' You're OVERCOMPENSATING! 'Me' is the OBJECT pronoun, not the SUBJECT! Arrrrggghhh!"

I stopped myself short of having an aneurysm and/or driving into a ditch.  Catching my breath, I thought of a short-lived reality show that aired on MTV for a while, in which the producers rigged people's cars with hidden cameras, so that the drivers could be captured singing along (badly, normally) to their favorite songs on the radio.  I wondered what a video of my little grammar tirade would look like.  It would probably be evidence enough for most judges to have me committed to a mental institution.

And to make the judge's case even stronger, a voice suddenly popped into my head.  "You're overcompensating.  Look here:  Take away the other people -- in this case it's 'my family.'  You wouldn't say 'this was not the case for I,' would you?"  It was one of those moments when you realize how hard-wired your DNA is.  For some people it's a predilection for alcohol and cigarettes (I may have inherited some of that, as well, but that's another blog post.)  My mother's voice came right back to me, and I started laughing, as I remembered the way she would frown as she corrected my brother and me whenever we made this sort of error.

(You'll notice she didn't correct "my brother and I.")

My mother, Carol Fuchs, doing a few of her favorite things in the summer of 1963 -- reading, lying on the beach and smoking*

*And yes, she was pregnant with me at the time.  As I said, that's another blog post...

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Wife, the Zumba Instructor: Mind if I Just Say… 'WOW!'?

Jeanette Reyes-Fuchs, Zumba Instructor
The Baker Center in Austin is an old school building that has been re-purposed to house meeting spaces for the Austin Independent School District.  It has the musty air and tiny toilets that make you imagine generations of children making their way through these hallways, since the structure first opened back in 1911.

On this particular rainy Saturday in November, I see a whiteboard with the wo
rds "ZUMBA THIS WAY!" written in red marker, in familiar handwriting, leaning against one of the outside doors.  My wife, Jeanette Reyes-Fuchs, has been excited, nervous, and energized about this day for weeks now.  She has invited several area Zumba instructors to participate in a fundraiser in support of the families in South Austin who lost everything in local flooding a few weeks ago.

My wife's passion for Zumba is nothing new; she has been very into the exercise/dance craze for a few years now, even taking the time to become a certified instructor by attending an intensive, day-long workshop in San Antonio a couple of years ago.  My boys and I have become accustomed to the pounding of her music, and to when she closes herself in the office and practices along with YouTube videos.

My two sons and I make our way into the Baker Center, following the thumping music that sounds down a dreary hallway.  We enter a large room that has a stage at the far end, along with vestiges of cafeteria serving windows on the opposite wall.  This was an early "cafetorium," no doubt, and is now serving as the site of my wife's Zumba-thon.  She greets us warmly.  I can tell by her expression she's a little surprised to see us.  She introduces us around to a number of people who, like her, are dressed in energetically-colored clothing that projects a certain degree of peacockish joy.  Almost all the garments have "Zumba" printed on them somewhere.

"I'm so nervous," she confides in me in a low voice.  "My turn is coming up."

"Just have fun with it," I say.

The other instructors are good.  Each brings their own spin to the practice of leading the group through a series of moves.  I participate here and there, mostly out of politeness.

And then it happens.  My wife moves up to the stage and the songs my kids and I are so used to hearing at home comes over the PA system.  Suddenly, Jeanette's face changes, and the whole room is captivated by her.  Her moves are synchronous, flirtatious and fun.  She cues us through our movements non-verbally, by way of hand signals, facial expressions and the like.  She connects with each of us in a way that makes us all feel special, as if we're all dancing with her.  Some of her songs are in Spanish, and others are in English.  She sings along with all of them.

At a certain point I realize I have become completely unselfconscious about what I am doing, even though I am, no doubt, pretty well out of step.  I also realize that I have a huge smile on my face that won't go away.  It's a difficult feeling to describe, but it's something I hope every person in my situation -- in a long-term relationship with the same person for a number of years -- can feel at some point in their life together.  At the risk of stepping into melodrama and smarminess, I fall a little more in love with my bride on this morning, as I follow along with her Zumba moves and fall victim to the charms of her infectious stage performance.

I know I am biased, but she is really, really good.  Others think so, too -- even the seasoned Zumba instructors she has recruited for the event.  She has found her passion, and my hope is that she will pursue it fully and deeply.  To say I am proud of her is an understatement.  She has my full-on support.

If there is something about which you know your partner is passionate -- whether it's fantasy football, needlepoint, scrimshaw or bird-watching -- do yourself a favor:  Go be with him or her when they do that particular something.    I promise you that if you feel anything near what I felt at Jeanette's Zumba-thon fundraiser last Saturday, you'll be more than glad you did.
The Author…Swept Away