She was petite; probably a seventh-grader. I saw her from our sunroom window. It was after school and she was waiting for a ride. She was alone, in her pink jacket and blue stocking hat, with an exploding brown ponytail held tight from the March wind. She looked up and down the street a couple of times, while bending over slightly—to adjust her too-large backpack? Or to check to see if anyone might see what she was about to do?

She looked north one more time, shifted her weight to her left foot, and then tapped a couple of beats out on the sidewalk, with her right. Then to the right and tapped out the same beat with the left foot—and back and forth a couple of more times. Then she made a circle with one arm extended that said, “See me, and see what I can do on a beautiful day!”

One more pivot, and then a green sedan slowly came to a stop, and the dancer stepped in. She probably said, “Hi, Dad!” But with that “buck and wing” in tow, she may have added, “… how’s it goin’?”

Maybe she’s taking ballet or tap—or maybe she has seen her parents jiving in the kitchen listening to Louis Jordan and Jonny Otis and Shuggie Otis, doing, “Let the Good Times Roll.” She may have even joined in.

As student and Dad disappeared down the street, they left me thinking of when I wanted to learn tap. I took a few lessons at age 17 or 18 and used my mediocre talent only once: on stage when in the service in Germany, more than 60 years ago. Wonder where that “buck and wing” went to. Maybe the petite dancer found it at the curbside. Hope so. She seemed to be feeling the great fun I felt so long ago.


“Grandpa” Jack Neely lives and muses in St. Anthony Park.

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