Our building is closed but the office is operating remotely.If you need to reach the clergy or the office, please send an email to info@adatshalom.net or call the main number at 301.767.3333.

To Touch

To Touch

It has been three years since the passing of my husband Bill Franz z”l; it feels like Bill died a long time ago and just yesterday. These annual days of reflection during Elul, mark my journey of grieving and healing. I shared touch-points with our community these past two years, writing about rituals and returning to joy.

Now in year three, I have fully returned to social dance — waltz, swing, and blues. There is something primal about social dance, moving to the music with a dance partner, bodies conversing without uttering a word. As a regular dancer at Glen Echo, I may not remember names, or really know anything about my dance partners, but I sure remember whether they were fun to dance with. I wasn’t quite ready to start dating but social dance fulfilled my innate need for human touch, so basic, and so vital.

I was ready for a new dance challenge and chose Argentine Tango, a dance that Bill and I tried twenty years ago, but never really got. Last fall I signed up for group lessons and after two months was hooked. In February, I added private lessons. Just when I was starting to get in the groove of this dance, COVID shut down everything. Gone was my outlet for social dance, for touch, for conversing without uttering a word. 

Now during this global pandemic, I am fully engaged with work, friends, and extended family, through the miracle called Zoom. But I live alone. No pets. No hugs. No human touch. I miss touch. I crave touch. On TV I saw a mother and daughter rig up a clear plastic shower curtain outside just so that they could hug one another. I never realized how vital touch is for our well-being.

As spring turned to summer and our community started to open up, each of us had to weigh the risk of getting sick vs. getting a haircut, going grocery shopping, eating out, seeing friends, having play dates, or traveling. For me, resuming social dance was my only temptation and it would be a long time before Glen Echo opened its dance hall. Until temptation dangled before me. My tango teacher started offering private lessons in July. Oh, what to do!

I laughed at the image of wearing a full body condom. Instead I interrogated the teacher. Remember when we used to ask romantic partners, Who else have you been with?Now its, “Who have you talked with closer than six feet without a mask?In the end, I succumbed. We dance outside on my porch twice a week, wearing N95 masks, sanitizing our hands, and dancing in open embrace. Strike any image you may have of a romantic scene, like in the movies. Learning tango is very hard mental and physical work, especially on a sweltering summer day while wearing masks! And yet the first time we touched hands, my first human touch in four months, brought me to tears. It felt so normal.

Cheryl Kollin

Return to Elul Enlightenments