Saturday, August 15, 2015
This morning I was reading something that mentioned square dancing--and Memory began his promenade ...
I grew up in Oklahoma in the 1950s, and square dancing was part of our curriculum at Adams Elementary School in Enid. Our music teacher--whose name I cannot recall--taught us, and I found out a couple of things: (a) I was decent (no more) at it, (b) it would arouse in me a fifth-grader's jealousy that I didn't even know existed.
There was some sort of school program coming up, and the teacher wanted to do a square-dance presentation for the parents. I was one of the four boys she picked from our class; I don't remember two of the other three, but the other one was a New Kid, a kid I'll call Lothario, a kid who was too damned good at square dancing for his (my?) own good.
The teacher took us out of class one day (there is no greater gift a teacher can confer upon a student) to get us organized for the presentation, and she asked the girls to pick their partners. I was positive that Linda C. was going to pick me because, well, I was in love with her. She liked me, too, I know (though Love had perhaps not occurred to her--but I could not have been more positive that it would--after all, I loved her, so ...).
There's a moment in the first Horrible Bosses film when the Jason Bateman character is sitting in a staff meeting; he is positive that he is about to receive the Big Promotion. But then the Horrible Boss (Kevin Spacey) declares that he has decided to add the position to his own. Bateman looks crestfallen,* shows Disappointment in its purest form.
Bateman is a great comic actor, but his display is but the faintest shadow of what I showed when Linda C., with first choice, picked Lothario to be her square dance partner. My first experience with Rejection (more would follow, believe me).
Some other girl picked me; I can't remember her name. But I do remember that I vowed to Dance My Heart Out--just to show Linda C. and Lothario that I ...
Made no difference. He was just a lot better than I. Linda C. knew it. So did everyone else (except me). Lesson learned (years later).
Square dancing was still somewhat part of the social scene when we moved to Hiram, Ohio, as I was about to enter the 7th grade. And here's a sweet moment ...
Just north of Hiram (not even a mile) lay the farm of the Pancost family. Father Roy was a farmer but also drove one of the school buses. His daughter, Joan, was in my class. And very, very early that year--perhaps after only a week or so of school--Joan invited me to a square dance in her father's barn.
I was touched. I didn't know anyone, really, and I was experiencing the fear all kids feel when their Cruel Parents yank them out of one place and take them to another (an experience I would "share" with our own son, later on). I really don't remember who else was there, but I remember having a lot of fun, surprising some of them with the "moves" I'd learned back in Oklahoma, and feeling an enormous gratitude to Joan Pancost for--as they say now--"reaching out" to the New Kid.
Postscript 1: When I was in high school, we went back to Enid over a spring break (I think I was in 11th or 12th grade). I had found out that Linda C. had been in a car accident and as a result had undergone surgery to remove one of her feet. I called her and drove to her house to see her (her dad, by the way, owned the major furniture store in Enid), and we had a wonderful talk. Lothario and the Square Dance did not come up. I would never see or hear anything about her again. We also did not talk about her foot.
Postscript 2: Near the end of my public school teaching career (1997), I taught a few terms in the Weekend College at Hiram College. One of my students was a Pancost, and, yes, he knew his aunt Joan very well. I told him, in class, what she had done back in 1956. He did not seem surprised by her kindness.
Postscript 3: When our son was in sixth grade (1983-84), he had such a lousy classroom situation in Hudson that we pulled him out of school after the first marking period. I paid his tuition to go to Harmon Middle School (where I taught 8th graders in nearby Aurora, Ohio)--one of our good decisions, by the way: He had a wonderful time there. Anyway, not long after he started (the 2nd marking period), a girl in his class, Kathy Piecuch (pee-ET-soo), invited him to a party at her house to meet other kids in his class. And when I heard about her invitation ... I wept ... remembering ...
*Crestfallen, by the way--I just looked it up--means a drooping head, crest meaning the head or top of anything; it dates to 1580, which means Shakespeare would have known it, a word his rivals surely knew personally; I just checked: The Bard used the word in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard II, and Henry VI, Part Two.