Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My First Lesson in Social Etiquette

I’m not saying I didn’t get taught things at home, I did. But this is the first lesson I can really remember. It happened when I was about six.

At that time, on St. John, there were less than a thousand people living on the island. Everybody knew most everybody. And everybody knew whose kids belonged to whom. We kids couldn’t get away with much. It was accepted that any adult had not only the right but the duty to reprimand, teach, or instruct an errant child.

It happened this way. We were up at the Julius E. Sprauve School. Something was happening as there were parents mingling and kids running around. I was one of those kids who was running around.

Roy Sewer was a teacher. He was a tall, handsome man and there was something about the way he carried himself that spoke of royalty. It wasn’t that he was prideful, but that he was confident.

It just so happened that my mother and Mr. Roy were talking together and I had the audacity to run between them. In an instant Mr. Roy grabbed my arm and pulled me aside. There, in front of my mother and anyone else who happened to be within ear-shot, he gave me a very stern lecture on proper social etiquette.

In essence these were his words. “Never pass between two people who are speaking to each other. Always go around them. If you can not go around them wait for a pause in the conversation, say ‘excuse me,’ and then slip between as quickly as possible.”

My mother stood there and never said a word. She was perfectly content to have Mr. Roy rebuke me. In a way, it was like having an uncle correct my behavior, for hadn’t my mother and he grown up together and been life-long friends?

To this day I am careful about going between two people when they are speaking to each other. If I can’t go around them I wait for a pause in the conversation, say “excuse me,” duck my head, and slip quickly between them.

Mr. Roy died in 2006. In 1999 my sister, mother and I took Mr. Roy to breakfast. I am glad to say I was able to tell him about the life lesson he taught me. Of course he didn’t remember it, but we had a good laugh.

Here’s a picture of Mom and Mr. Roy taken the day we had breakfast together. One can still see in the way he is sitting and in his shoulders the remnants of his regal carriage.


  1. WOW. What a beautiful story. There are times in my life that I remember, times that are BRANDED on my heart -- but not in a bad way. In a good way! This sounds like one of those times for you.

    He sounds like a beautiful person, Bish. Thank you for sharing a little of him with us!

  2. Bish;
    Great story and wonderful picture!

  3. I had a few people like Roy in my life too and I'm certainly the better for it. Hilary Clinton's notion of it taking a village to raise a child was by no means new. I see kids getting away with social no-nos nowadays and feel like sighing. No one can touch them and they know it. It's so hard to see kids getting away with gross behavior when you yourself can remember getting your hide tanned for piddling offences...


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