Billy Z

This image reminds me of a time back in elementary school when they taught us folk songs and square dances. I honestly enjoyed it but didn’t let on at the time. That would’ve been too old school before old school was cool. And maybe my interest had to do with a genetic leaning for old country ways or, more realistically, because the teacher had us pair up with the boys. This meant at some point there would be holding of hands.

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In the 40’s when my grandparents were newly married they would go to local barn dances. That was entertainment when you lived on a farm in that era. For them it was also an occasional means of earning an extra buck. On any given Saturday night Grandma, as a twenty-something, would play the banjo while Grandpa called out the square dances. Of course at the time they weren’t anybody’s grandma or grandpa. They were just a couple of young farm folk living in the Dust Bowl of Kansas. “Promenade with your partner then allemande left to your corner . . . “

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So, in my fifth grade dance class none of the girls wanted to “allemande left” with Billy Z. Why? Because at least three fingers on one of his hands were only partially there. I never knew if it was because of an accident or a birth defect and I never looked closely enough to find out. It seemed impolite and felt uncomfortable for a fifth grade girl to inquire about such a thing. I didn’t really know what made me feel uncomfortable around this boy with the obvious disfigurement but I did know that I didn’t want to end up as his square dance partner. None of the girls did.

Well darn it Billy! All these years later and I realize something I did not at the time. You didn’t ask for that. It was nothing you did, yet we treated you as a strange entity when you were just a regular kid like the rest of us. And we fifth grade girls at Woodrow Wilson Elementary school were the ones that had the dis-ability to be kind to you or to anyone, for that matter, who was the slightest bit different. Do I need to say anything more?

Yes I do . . . I’m so sorry Billy Z.

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