My first experience with a learned dance in grade four was a square dance. Everyone in the class had a chance to try the steps each afternoon for an hour...taking turns. It was so much fun and awfully exciting learning something so exotic . Well , exotic to my world. I had only ever seen square dancing on Don Messer's Jubilee , out of the Maritimes, on television.
With my enthusiasm and style, I must have cut a decent picture because my little step for keeping the beat between movements was chosen as the one that everyone would use. I was so proud of myself. At last! Something I could do that others would need to learn from me. That was a change.
When a couple of weeks went by , it was announced that a set of 4 pairs would be chosen to dance for the parents and teachers at the next PTA meeting. We were ecstatic.
Then the bomb fell right on top of me.
We were required to buy some green fabric to sew a skirt and some red fabric to make a sash. We also needed a white blouse to complete the outfit. My inside emptied as my heart fell. There was no way that the money for such extravagances could be spared . I didn't even have to ask. I knew the answer would be " No ".
Terror filled my mind. How could I tell them that we couldn't afford all that?
That was the first time I thought about the others who hadn't been chosen. They sat there in their desks with faces I had only just recognized. Some sad , some resigned , some disappointed and some heart-broken. That is where I usually sat. What I also recognized was that most of them were children who's parents couldn't afford the expense either.
But I thought ," They said that I am such a good dancer that they'll let me dance anyway. I did have a white blouse. And I could wear my school skirt." I felt sure that all would be well.
A week before the meeting , there was to be a dress rehearsal. I never did mention the outfit to Mum and Dad , just the fact that we would be dancing at the PTA night. So when I was asked where my outfit was that day at school , I timidly said that I did not have one.
"What?" screeched the teacher. I broke into tears. " Do you realize that you have let everyone down?" I saw the others dancers' faces fall on cue. Scowls tore my heart to shreds.
On top of the humiliation, more devastating was the comment from the PTA Chairwoman , who had come up with the square dance idea...who had designed the outfit to be worn.
"What can you expect? If her parents were not so involved with the 'Le-gion' they would have a couple of dollars for such an important thing as this. I know from their church tithes that they could well afford it if they had any decency."
It was the first time in my life , I had heard my parents being denigrated . And it was done publicly, in front of the whole class. Condemned , drawn and quartered.
My parents were not like that in my mind and heart . I was shamed and felt more so because my Mum and Dad were being punished for something I failed to do. I should have said that I could not participate weeks before. But I so wanted to dance.
So someone else was chosen to replace me . As it happened , the PTA chair just happened to have enough cloth to make an extra skirt and sash . All at no cost to the replacement. I did not go to the PTA meeting and told my parents that a better dancer had been chosen.
Later , the teacher (my cousin) recounted what had transpired - minus her part . Mum was angry. But not with me. At Church that Sunday , she cornered the woman in a quiet location to inform her that when she had an idea that depended on others to fulfil, she should have the courtesy to give them the option of whether or not to participate . She should not assume that everyone must fall into the steps of her dance.
Mum then spoke to her husband who took care of church monies to tell him that the information as to the financial status of our family , or any family in the congregation, was private information. Not for public consumption- which included his wife." What we spend our money on , such as it is , is none of your business. If we have done wrong , then God is judge...just as He is yours."
None of the encounter was done within earshot of others. A subtle lesson from Mum. Red faces left many questioning looks that received no answers.