Swing Your Partner

The year was 1981. I was in the fifth grade. Outside my classroom window, the trees were budding with green, and the playground called my name. Inside, I was being called to the fiery pits of the principal’s office. That’s where the bad kids went.

The principal was a tall, stern man with deep lines on his face. The corners of his mouth gravitated down. He stood up from behind his desk and motioned for me to sit. We both sat. He leaned forward, steepled his hands, and gave me a grave look. “Do you know why you’re here?” he said.

I might have had an inkling. During music class, we were learning to square dance. It was a piece of our historical Oklahoma land run curriculum. We would dress in western apparel, and our parents would be invited for the culminating hoedown. The music teacher had asked if anyone couldn’t dance for religious reasons. Despite the dance lessons I took on Mondays after school, I raised my hand. So I had lied. My religion did not forbid dancing. I didn’t want to square dance. Truth be told, I didn’t want to touch the boys’ hands. Is there anything wrong with a fifth-grade girl having boundaries?

The principal said, “You’re a leader,” along with other words that sounded like blobbity blobbity blah blah blah. In the end, guess who square danced?

As a girl, I was taught two big lessons: Be nice and respect authority. That day I learned two more lessons: Do what you’re told and what you feel doesn’t matter.

I sometimes wonder about the correlation among my fifth-grade self with boundaries, my seventh-grade self who lost them, and my adult self who is still learning assertiveness. I wonder about the roles of society and family, hormones and people pleasing. I don’t have the answers. Different people react and internalize differently. Forty years later, I realize two more things: Some lessons are hard to unlearn, but it’s never too late to try.  

A New Tradition

Have you ever opened the bible at random to find a divine message from God? Perhaps I have. If so, it’s been awhile.

A day or two after Thanksgiving, my daughter Lauren called to tell me about her encounter with God. I could hear her smile and energy through my cell phone. “I opened the Bible and ended up in Amos, and I was like, ‘Amos, where am I?’” She laughed her twenty-eight-year-old laugh. “And this is what I found, I’m going to read it.” She hesitated through the words. “‘Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is’ (Amos 5:14). The words were bolded. They jumped off the page. I was like, ‘Seek good, not evil.’” She paused. The way she phrased the scripture sounded more like a question. “Of course, that makes sense.”

And I said, “No matter what you believe, the Bible has some good advice.”

Lauren agreed, and eventually we said our goodbyes, and a day or so later while Facebook scrolling, I found this:

I texted the image and a message to Lauren: I saw this today. I think I’m going to do this.

 She texted me: Oh that sounds good maybe I should do that

Me to her: We could read it and talk about it. New tradition.

And so I read Luke 1. If I ever knew the story, I didn’t remember that the angel Gabriel appeared to Elizabeth’s husband as well as Mary to announce immaculate conceptions for both. Two immaculate conceptions. One for a menopausal woman. The other for a virgin. I love a good miracle. Miracles keep my hope alive.   

On December 1, my friend Denise called. Denise, my friend since age five. I told her about Luke, and she wanted to join Lauren and me in the new tradition.

Later she texted me and some friends: I’m reading Luke – a chapter a day. I hadn’t remembered Mary going to Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist). All we need is that one friend right!?! God knew.

And I texted: Love that perspective.

And Cheri texted: Same here. I’ll join you.

And now for Luke 2. Let me tell you, Luke is not messing around. He jumps into the story. Jesus is born, and within the chapter he is twelve. Sitting among teachers at the temple. Listening. Asking questions. Growing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

And no matter what you believe, Jesus was a good guy. We could all learn a little something through him. Who’s in? New tradition. The reason for the season.

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