As the eldest of four girls, I was a bit of a guinea pig when it came to taking lessons in various things. It started when I was pretty young. A next door neighbor, who we affectionately called Uncle Ronny, was to teach me how to play the accordion. That was a pretty lofty goal considering his student was not strong enough to actually hold up the accordion and play at the same time. That did not last long.
A few years later, we rented an organ and a woman came to the house to teach me to play it. Now here was an instrument I could handle. Except that I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was supposed to be doing with my fingers at the same times as I was working the pedals. (I believe that I may have been a bit too distracted by those pants to effectively play anything, but hey, it was the 70s.) I struggled for a while and eventually the organ went back and the teacher stopped coming.
Next I joined the band in grade school. I chose flute and when I had to try out, somehow miraculously when I blew across the top of the flute, sound came out. I came home with that beautiful, shiny, silver flute in the purple velvet case. I was so excited. However, problems arose when it came to actually making the sound come out and pressing the keys at the same time. For a while I faked the sound and just played with the keys. Eventually they got wise to me though and I ended up giving up on that pursuit. Yes, I was a band drop-out.
My final foray into the world of music lessons came in high school. I took a piano class in my freshman year. Perhaps now that I was older, my musical skills had developed. Nope. For my final I had to play “Mary had a Little Lamb.” You’d think I could have nailed that, right? Nope. As I finished my solo for the teacher, he told me, “You have excellent finger control. But absolutely no musical talent. Try typing.” Harsh, yes, but in hindsight he was probably right.
I tried swimming lessons in grade school as well. That wasn’t a complete failure. While I still am not the greatest at swimming, I love being in the water. My strokes are still more of a dog paddle than anything, but in that class I was able to tread water longer than anyone else. #Win.
I also took sewing lessons for a while at the Singer store in the mall. I was ok at making square things, but when it came to making clothes, not so much. For our final project, I made a shirt. It looked so cool in the pattern, but when I put it on, I had to keep one arm outstretched for it to fit. Hence, the demise of my career as a seamstress. I did however put my sewing skills to work last year and made a quilt for my parents, and have knocked out a few Halloween costumes, so not a total loss there either.
Perhaps the oddest lessons I got were when my mom sent me to Charm School in a local mall. I cannot remember a single charming thing I learned there except how to pivot on the runway—a skill I surprisingly rarely use. The final day of Charm School we had a fashion show in the mall. Last time I ever used my pivot skills.
So what are your memories of lessons growing up? Share them with us in the comments, and more importantly, share them with your family.
About Juliana Smith
Juliana Szucs Smith has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 16 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.