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Marietta was not a young woman anymore. She preferred to be called “older,” but based on the number of years Marietta had been on earth, she was old. As a young adult, Marietta had participated in the Civil Rights movements in the ’60s. One didn’t need a degree in math to figure out that Marietta was now in her late seventies or eighties.

Although Marietta professed to love all of God’s people, she resented the changes in her neighborhood. “Foreigners have taken over,” Marietta complained to her few remaining black neighbors. “Our people suffered all that pain during the struggle for civil rights just to be pushed down and around by foreigners now,” Marietta lamented.

It was true that Marietta’s neighborhood had changed. A neighborhood that had once been all black was now “diverse.”

Someone decided it would be a good idea to have a block party in Marietta’s neighborhood. It would give neighbors a chance to meet each other. Flyers went out, announcing that the party would be on a Saturday and asking everybody to bring a dish to share. Marietta didn’t want to appear to be a difficult person, so she decided to go and take her famous potato salad. She wasn’t going to participate in anything. She’d just sit on the side and watch.

Marietta greeted her longtime neighbors at the block party, but she only spoke to “those foreigners” that greeted her first. She wasn’t going to waste her time and effort trying to talk to people who couldn’t even speak English.

Marietta sat on the side with her friends. She refused to taste any of the “foreign food” because she questioned the cleanliness of those foreigners. She tried to tune out “that foreign music” that was playing, but one song eventually made Marietta tap her foot and bob her head a little bit.

“Ka-choon, ka-choon, ka-choon, ka-choon,” went the beat. An “older” foreigner visiting his daughter observed Marietta’s movements. Unaware of Marietta’s distaste for foreigners, he went over to Marietta and extended his hand for her to dance with him. Marietta shook her head no. The man persisted, took Marietta’s hand and wouldn’t let go. He tugged Marietta until she finally stood up.

Marietta had always liked to dance. The man’s persistence and the music took hold of her. She began to move back and forth and side to side to the beat with this foreigner. Ka-choon, ka-choon, ka-choon, ka-choon! The foreigner held Marietta’s hand up in the air, and Marietta tried to spin around. Ouch! Her bad knee stopped her in the middle of the spin, but it didn’t stop Marietta and this foreigner from doing what at times resembled the Twist or the Bump. Marietta was actually grinning. Maybe foreigners weren’t so bad after all … if they could dance.

Ka-choon, ka-choon!

*Thanks to the beat in Circle of Songs music by Bobbi McFerrin

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...