My mother was an organizer.

A man and a woman performing a modern dance.

A man and a woman performing a modern dance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daughter of a single Mom who was widowed early, with two young children, my Mom was able to go to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where her Mom was principal of the in-hospital school for children with long-term illnesses.

She lived at home and walked the two miles to school, defying the school administration officials who would not allow her to take physical education because they said she wasn’t strong enough.

But, she could not afford to join a sorority.

Still, she didn’t want to miss out on a social life, so she organized an independent women’s group.

They had teas. I saw a newspaper article about one she hosted in her home.

I know she dated a lot because her mother kept a scrapbook with pieces of fabric from her dresses and dance cards from the many dances she went to.

I ran across one letter in which she raved about the guy she was dating, saying “This is the one.”

It was not my father. whom she had met her Sophomore year, his Freshman year, but did not marry until two years after she finished college.

So, when we moved from Iowa to Texas just before I started 7th grade, and my mother found out there were no parties for junior high kids, she organized a club.

She wrote a monthly newsletter, showing me how and putting my name on it.

I helped her print and fold the newsletters that went out to more than 200 kids in school.

She got together with other parents and they hosted monthly dances in a local community center.

Once a year, they had a semi-formal dance.

It was only to last for two years, because the high school had its own parties.

But, it was enough.

I got to dress up and watch the half dozen or so couples that were going steady dance all evening.

The rest of us split, boys on one side of the room and girls on the other.

Sometimes the girls danced with each other to some of the fast dances.

A friend’s older sister had taught all the neighborhood kids to dance when I was in fifth grade, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

From then on, all the neighborhood birthday parties were dances in our basements.

But, though my parents were always in the house when we had our parties, they rarely came downstairs.

So, I guess my Mom thought that nature would take its course at the junior high dances she organized in Texas.

She never signed up to be a chaperone, rightly understanding I would have been mortified if she had.

But, this also meant she didn’t know there was almost no dancing going on.

If she had, I’m sure she would have shown up at the next party and started introducing boys and girls to each other or started organizing dance classes to precede the dances.

My husband tells me that in the much more socially-aware South, where he grew up, mothers and daughters arranged to have their dance cards filled up before parties started.

Visiting relatives were fixed up and guys were expected to dance with several girls so no one would feel left out, though, occasionally, a girl might arrange to have all her dance card slots filled in with the same guy.

I didn’t tell my Mom about the dance-less dances because, being a clueless 12 and 13-year-old, I didn’t know there was anything wrong.

She didn’t find out until after the last dance.

One of the girls had tearfully told her mother that she hadn’t danced all night long.

That mother told my mother.

My mother asked me if it were true.

I admitted it was.

We never talked about it again.

I assume she was saddened to realize that all that work had resulted only in junior high kids staring at each other across a dance floor.

I was not. I had learned the form. I enjoyed getting dressed up for the occasion.

I figured boys would eventually grow up and ask me to dance, and they did.

By the time I met my husband in my Sophomore year of college, he, a great dancer, and I once cleared the floor doing an impromptu polka in his fraternity cook’s basement after one of their parties.

But remembering that junior high experience, I insisted that my ninth or tenth-grade son ask at least three girls to dance when I dropped him off for his first high school dance.

He waited until there were only 10 minutes left at the dance.

He asked three girls to dance in a row.

They all turned him down.

Not exactly my plan.

He and his wife danced the Tango at their wedding.


Did your parents teach you the social graces?

Who taught you to dance?

Have your grandchildren ever seen you dance?


To you and sharing your joy with your grandchildren.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma?



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