Leslie Lawrence, writer and teacher of writing, has a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Brown University and a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing from Goddard College.
What gets passed on, what left behind? As a child of the sixties, I did not want to duplicate my parents’ lives, yet I never imagined I’d stray so far by falling in love with another woman. The Death of Fred Astaire begins in the eighties as I summon the courage to create a two-mom family. This requires saying a long good-bye to the iconic images I’ve held dear since childhood.
That summer Fred Astaire died. I heard the news on the radio and was surprised by the depth of my grief. Sure, I enjoyed the guy’s skill and grace and sprightliness—but he was of my parents’ generation, certainly no heartthrob of mine. (Too skinny! Too pale!) So why this lumpy throat, these tears on their way.
“The end of an era!” The announcer declared. “Of style! Of dancing cheek to cheek!”
Ah, so that was it! Not the soloist hoofing with his cane, but Fred together with Ginger, gliding through their ballroom numbers—he in his top hat and tails, she in that swirly chiffon; he knowing his steps, she knowing hers. I was really going to do this thing: Have a baby without a man, and, apparently, I wasn’t done mourning yet.
Farewell Fred, I cried—not really, but that was the feeling. Good-bye Steve, Jim, John, The Other Steve, Alben, Gary, Seth… Surely the end of an era warranted a good cry and I allowed myself a few hearty sobs. Goodbye to all the world smiling at what a fine figure we cut.
And hello…? Hello to what? Making it up as we go along?
— An excerpt from The Death of Fred Astaire.