A Reel Good Time 2

reel“Oh, Mrs. Rich, I’m so glad I got a hold of you!”

This is rarely a good thing to hear someone say over the phone.

Their glad usually means your bad.

“I’m desperate! This Tuesday is the elementary school’s ‘Heritage Day’ field trip where the children visit community sites and learn about our early history, and we have nobody to teach the children the Virginia Reel at Pioneer Park.”

She went on to explain that the longtime resident who usually did this was unavailable and every other person she’d tried was too.

Why me?

I was a community transplant of only a few years and I don’t even have kids in elementary school anymore. How did she even know I knew the Virginia Reel? I barely knew her! It’s not like that’s something I spread around, especially since I have teenagers. My silent wondering was quickly answered, “Your name and number were given to me by Bizzy Bobbins.”

I should have known. Every little community has one—that woman who knows everybody and everything about everybody before anybody else. I don’t know how she does it, but just as you pull a thermometer out of your mouth, which confirms your suspicion of an oncoming flu, the doorbell rings and there she is with a pot of soup and a loaf of warm homemade bread.

She knows of my Virginia Reel skills because she asked me to learn it for a community Pioneer Day activity a few years ago. This is what I get for being festive. But desperation softened my indignation, and I agreed.

My presentation was to teach the dance and about the history and importance of social gatherings in early community life. I explained to this young techo-generation how such activities served as the settlers’ entertainment, since there was no TV, Xbox, or YouTube. They were aghast. “You mean, people actually chose to dance like that for fun?” one bewildered boy responded.

Dancing with the kids proved both invigorating and frustrating. Some caught on quickly and begged me to do it over and over. Some didn’t know their right do-si-do from their left and didn’t give a flying fiddle if they every figured it out. Some boys wouldn’t hold hands with icky girls. Some girls wouldn’t link arms with smelly boys. I was mostly gracious with the unenthusiastic and uncoordinated, but sometimes my patience wore thin and I wished my pioneer getup included a schoolmarm paddle.

In my last group I had one little boy who refused to dance. His reason was, “I’m interested in the future, not the past.” I asked him, “So after you’re gone, you won’t care if everybody forgets about your life?” He became one of my best do-si-doers.

I became aware that dancing around a park to a catchy fiddle tune isn’t a bad way to spend a beautiful October day.

It’s good to learn about community history. It’s good to be involved in the community, and it’s good that every community has a Bizzy Bobbins. These things unite us as a community and endear us to each other.

Just make sure you have Bizzy and her subordinates entered as contacts in your phone. Staying community aware via caller ID is good too.

2 thoughts on “A Reel Good Time

  1. Reply Colleen Smith Oct 18,2013 2:08 am

    So sorry you got sucked into this. Here’s my Virginia Reel story:

    Every year I take my 4th graders on a Utah history fieldtrip to Heritage Park… and the little old ladies that run the park always INSIST on teaching the kids the Virginia Reel. Which means I get desperate looks from 30-ish kids that say, “Please! Do something! Use your teacherly powers to stop this travesty.”

    And when I ask the bossy, pioneer garbed ladies if my kids can skip the 1850 dance party, they get soo offended that I cave. Because apparently the Virginia Reel is an important life skill that kids need to learn in 2013.

    • Reply Kari Rich Oct 29,2013 2:51 am

      Traumatic experiences involving being forced to dance is all part of growing up I guess. I remember at good ol’ Bates when I had to dance some German folk dance with Donny Seamons during P.E.

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