Some days I think one of my siblings and I had entirely different childhoods. They were born 4 and 5 years before me and the world was changing, integration came while they were in school. We grew up in a very small town where our father was a country physician in a two doctor town. It was before the days of cell phones and answering systems, so what you knew most of all was no matter what, the phone ringing meant they needed Dad….at the hospital, at the emergency room, at a mill where someone was hurt…..somewhere they were needing him in ways that no family dinner could be considered more important, no trip away from home was casually handled, for one had to be “clear” of whatever person was ill or in the hospital at the time so as not to leave them without care.
When I went to school, my elementary school was integrated. It was not an issue for me. I was aware that there were differences between black families and mine, mainly that their dads and moms seemed to have time for them. My mother was at home during those years, but she was often filling in the space at the clinic for bookwork and doing the things doctor’s wives in a small town are expected to do in her volunteerism. I particularly remember going to one home for a visit and being impressed that all ten of them lived in two bedrooms. That afternoon I was put in the middle of a quilt and trampolined up in the air over and over much to my delight and had the best stew and fried cornbread I’ve ever eaten. There were social do’s and don’ts at that time where black children and white children were concerned, but I do not remember believing my parents were about that sort of thing.
I remember my brother’s on the big porch playing with their friends a board game. My brother who could build forts out of sheets in his room and played castles. My older brother playing flag football in the yard with several other boys for many many days….I remember how our dog Sallie Mae would promise to curl into a tight ball on the floor of the backseat just until we hit the road when she preferred to hoist her head out of the window while standing on the seat. I remember my Mom’s El Camino at some point with our great dane riding with his paws on the top of the roof like a beauty queen…..
I remember walking to school, playing with friends alot in the yard and enjoying my life….taking trips to Gibson’s with Grandmother Geddie when we would visit her in the nearby town and being given money to pick our a $5 toy and always needing $6…..I remember my mother being the “grandmother” of my dolls and taking time from mopping to “see the new baby”…..and blowing up too many balloons at my father’s clinic, wasting countless chart papers and balloons while I was visiting there “doing my work.”
My childhood was in a quiet town, where folks didn’t have alot, at least not the folks I knew, but they had safety, trust, and for the most part happiness……and I try so very hard to help recreate that for my own children.