I owe my diverse life to growing up in predominantly military family neighborhoods. Everyone came from all parts of the nation and got stationed in a place where you were united by your work and respected by your rank. My dad had a pile of books that he studied to work his way up. Meanwhile, I played with anyone who was nice to me. You had to play nice if you wanted a decent game going. My house was a favorite place to gather. We were out in the streets yelling “CAR!!” to warn everyone to step aside and resume our playing after the car passed through.
I adopted a lot of bonus parents. Many of us did. Growing up with a parent away half the year or more, there was always another set of watchful eyes making sure we were okay. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas were a retired couple across the street and took to my brothers and I. They even opened their door to my cat when he showed up curious. They were white.
Mr. and Mrs. Quinones would give me a wink every time they cracked a raw egg into their daughter’s smoothie when she wasn’t looking. They were goofy and I never told on them. Their daughter and I walked to school together in the mornings. I enjoyed coming over to play. She had a dog. For a short while, I understood Spanish from hanging out when them.
The Walker family still lives at the corner house near my mom’s house. They were a black family. One of the sons grew up and stayed to look after his parents. He works for UPS. My brother works for the post office. When my brother visits my mom and sees Walker yell “UPS!”, my brother yells back, “Post office!”
We still play together in our little ways. We were neighbors, friends, and are still family to each other.
Music school brought me friends from around the world. When I finally landed and settled myself in Los Angeles, I had my one nation of nice humans sensibility. I’m still friends with many from music school. My get togethers had black, white, Asians, Armenians and Turkish people in the same home. Christians, Jews, and Atheists. The photo above was taken at my neighbor’s apartment across the hall. I’m on the floor next to the Cuban girl with the beaming smile. Coincidentally, the guy next door (E. near center with green shirt) was from Orlando and grew up in the same cul de sac where my aunt and uncle lived. I told him he had to be nice or his parents will hear about it. Small world! He’s back in Orlando married and raising a child. We are still friends.
Even though I enjoyed a mostly colorblind life, I had my moments where people disappointed me. I once had a boyfriend who’s dad told his son to never be seen kissing me in public. I was grateful that his mother was mortified by her husband’s behavior and attitude and came to her son’s defense. She made sure to invite me over to make dinner with her and her son and feel comfortable in their home. When I went away to college and chose to break off with her son, she wrote me letters of encouragement and told me I was in her daily prayers. I’m still friends with M.
I just took a moment to send a hello to him and his mom.
I’m not blind to the fact that I’m not white. But I’ve been treated kindly most of my life that when someone mistreats me, it’s a sad and stunning shock. I’m grateful for people who see me and like me for my character and not how I look. God knows I don’t even like to bother with the make up game. I don’t do my own head in for not being white and made up. Anyone who wants to create grief over that is a lazy monster. Don’t you know that many times I don’t even want to bother wearing my glasses or contacts. You’re just a blurry person to me many times.
The world is in turmoil over a culture war that is being stirred as we feel fearful over a virus that gets confusing coverage and we deal with an oppressive new normal of lockdowns and mandatory masks. I don’t remember waking up to a controversial life like this in all of my lifetime. I have faith that good people outnumber the angry ones that are acting out and tearing through towns.
Broken people break things. But there are healers and people who want to smooth out the pain of broken moments like my friend’s mother. Good people bring good to the world. And look how gorgeous we are when we celebrate one another.
I’m rooting for good to win and I believe so are you.