The dance of life continues

Published 4:22 am Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fruit plates done, bacon on the grill, eggs ready to whip up. That Guatemalan dark roast smells so good. I think I’ll have a cup before the guests start moseying this way.

I poured a cup and turned to retreat to a quiet spot when a petite, dark haired lady startled me. The expressive face lit up with a smile as she reached out to take my free hand in hers.

“You must be Jan. I’m Jessica.”

The soothing warmth in Jessica’s voice immediately drew me in. I instinctively realized I had met a kindred spirit, and soon we were chattering like old friends. We didn’t have a lot of time before the kitchen and dinning area filled so we spoke with the abandon that time and circumstance sometimes afford.

Many times I am mistaken for the owner, so I shared my story of who I was and what brought me to the mountain retreat. Jessica listened attentively as one who deeply loves the people both in her life and along her path.

Somehow, I knew this was a special moment in time.

Jessica said, “My husband and I are from Chicago. He has never had a chance to be around horses, and he is actually a little intimidated by them. When I noticed the photos of the beautiful horses roaming free I knew we had to stop here. They came right up to us when we brought in our luggage!”

“They are beauties alright,” I agreed.

Walking to the fridge, I took out some Granny Smith apples and placed them on the countertop.

“You guys will love this, Jessica. Call your husband, and we’ll see if today is our day. I’ll open the window to let the horses know we want a visit, but it’s totally up to them. Sometimes a week or more will pass with those big boys totally ignoring us. You just never know what they’ll do.”

The horses did come and grace us with their presence. After a photo shoot and a leisurely breakfast I felt as if I had made a friend, but the pleasure of this day was only beginning. Jessica’s dark eyes twinkled and her voice softened as she said in almost a whisper, “I’ve got a story about this trip.”

“Tell me,” I answered.

“I am a ballerina, and I’ve been working on my master’s degree in dance. For a long time I’ve wondered about the ballerinas of the Holocaust, so I decided to research the topic and write my thesis on my findings.

“I discovered a story on the Internet of a Holocaust survivor named Sophie. She and her family were captured and sent to Auschwitz. Sophie’s talent and beauty saved her life, but the degradation she endured at the hands of her captors was horrific. Her parents both died there, but Sophie was able to smuggle enough food to her sister so that she also survived.

“Her story captivated me. I choreographed a ballet about Sophie’s life that my fellow students and I performed. Somehow, I couldn’t get Sophie’s story out of my mind so I began searching for some hint as to what happened to her.”

Tears formed in Jessica’s eyes as I exclaimed, “You didn’t!”

“Yes, Yes! I found Sophie! She is alive and well at 90. I’ve been in contact with her, and we are traveling 14 hours from Chicago to Hilton Head, North Carolina to see her!”

The two did meet, and a friendship that began over the phone and the Internet has deepened and grown. This poignant love story of a beautiful young ballerina and a beautiful aging one yearns to be told.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at