Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lessons Starting at Six

When I was growing up there were several things all little girls from "good families" were expected to endure. They included dance, piano, manners, and ballroom dancing. I'm don't think I got the exact skills these lessons were intended to instill but along the way, some life lessons were picked up.

My dance lessons were in ballet and I think I may have taken for a year or two. I know nothing about ballet. Piano was even more tragic. I took lessons, every week September through May for five years and still cannot play. Of course, I think if I had practiced, the time may have been more productive, but I was not interested and I could not get that across to my mother. Just because she was a talented musician with a minor in music in college, didn't mean it was a genetic quality.

Now manners got interesting. We were lucky to have "Betty Lane Gramling's School of Charm" in my home town. Miss Betty Lane was a Miss USA in 1956 and 1st runner up in Miss World - a regular home town celebrity. She took etiquette seriously - white gloves seriously. So from age six, I learned how to stand, walk, and sit. I could set a table and knew how to use all those convoluted forks and spoons (a good skill to go along with that silver). I learned that ladies walked on the inside on a side walk, ahead of the gentleman going up the stairs (in case she fell), and behind him going down. And, never ever open a car door yourself. If it were up to her, we would have never known how the door opened. (This worked well when I was dating - however, these days I would just get left in the car.)

Then there was ballroom dancing. This was where the boys could sink or swim - and it wasn't pretty - Miss Sloan's Ballroom Dancing School - in 6th grade, every Monday night for 8 weeks. The best you could hope for was that there were as many boys as girls, or even better - more boys than girls (if you were a girl). You were paired up to learn the waltz, the fox trot, and the shag. If you survived the 8 week ordeal with your dignity in tact, you did have basic dancing skills, Miss Sloan made sure of that.

And, some things don't change, Miss Betty Lane Gramling and Miss Sloan were still around for both my daughters. Looking back, some may say these lessons were quaint, but I have used all these skills (at least the ones I was able to learn) through out my life. So when all else fails, I can still set a one heck of a table, waltz (with practice), and know how to walk down stairs in a lady like manner. I guess Mama wanted me prepared for that day I planned an 8 course meal for 125, was invited to an inaugural ball, and had to descend some grand stairway in front of thousands. I may never need the skills, but hey - I'm prepared, you never know.

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