My second grade teacher loved to dance. In the afternoon when we’d come back from lunch, she’d have us push back the desks to clear the middle of the classroom. Then she’d stand in front of us, pulling up her black robes so that we could see her feet, and demonstrate the steps. Crowded with the other kids against the blackboard that smelled like chalk, I’d listen to the jingle of her beads and the swish of her clothing and the squeak of those sturdy black shoes.
Sun came in the big windows, and our bodies made shadows as we moved. Sister Dancing Marie taught us the jig, the waltz, the foxtrot. She put us together in pairs, usually arranged by height. I’d look down at my legs, skinny legs in green kneesocks under a plaid uniform skirt, to make sure I was doing the right steps. I never looked at the boy I was dancing with, even when he tried to talk to me. He was always trying to talk to me.
Then Sister Dancing Marie would select an album. When she dropped the needle onto the record, music filled the whole room, surging over the desks and under the edges of the spelling tests that hung from the bulletin boards. I forgot all about my feet or the boy who kept trying to talk to me. I tossed my braids back and let the rhythm take over my legs, my arms, my body.
That’s mostly what I remember about second grade. The way the sun felt coming through those big windows, the jingle of beads as my teacher danced, and the way it felt to move my body to music.