Just one of those moments that reminds you of what you’re doing and why.
Last week I was at Israel Loring School in Sudbury Massachusetts, in my customary position, standing in front of a microphone, underneath the backboard in the gym in front of three hundred kindergarten, first and second graders sitting on the floor.
I was telling my own twisted version of Sody Salleratus, “Big Bert”, which I have told WAAAAAY too many times, but still love to tell. As I’ve said in other posts, when you know a story really well, something else happens when you tell it.
It sure did.
I got to the point where the girl in the family is going over the bridge to the store. I use the word “sashay” to describe her movement (“She sashayed out the door. She sashayed down the road. She sashayed over the bridge.”) (I think I owe a nod here to Roadside Theater and their version – “Fat Man”.)
The audience looked at me, wondering what I was up to.
“Sashay,” I said. “What does that mean anyway. Anybody know?”
Usually, nobody does. So I tell them it’s a little dance step and go on with the story. Vocabulary lesson accomplished, and I’ve engaged the audience.
But that day, a kindergartener on the far end of the front row raised her hand.
I stop and look at her.
“Do you know what it means?”
She nods. She’s sure.
Well, this is just great, I think. I love this.
“What does it mean?”
“It’s a ballet step,” she says.
Now I am surprised. (Would that be chasse? I didn’t know that term until I went searching today…) No ballet expert myself – I learned how to sashay in fourth grade gym class with a scratchy record, Mr. Keller the gym teacher, and Janice Kahn, who I kind of liked. It was a nice move for a fourth grade boy, because no one touched.
Now I’ve stopped telling the story. This is interesting.
“I didn’t know it was a ballet step,” I said. “Thank you.”
I take a breath to go back into the story, but the lexicographer in the kindergarten class is not done. She has her hand raised again, and she is very self-assured.
I pause, “Yes?” I ask
“I know how do it,” she says.
Well,” I say, “that’s fantastic. Would you like to show us?”
She nods and stands up. Completely fearless. She is a dancer by trade! If only her teacher were here to see!
“Go ahead!” I say.
She raises her arms to her sides, faces the audiences, side-skips from one side of the gym to the other, keeping her arms perpendicular to the ground, her feet crossing ever-so-slightly at each step, then back again across the floor, and sits down. There is a spontaneous round of applause.
It is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. I am struck near speechless.
“Thank you,” I said. “Now we all know what sashay means.”
I go on telling the story, knowing the picture in three hundred heads is different than it was before.
Actually, make that three-hundred and one.