Tuesday, May 29, 2007


One of my earliest memories was my daily walk home from kindergarten with my mother. There were two kindergarten classes; my mother and I walked home with another mother and her daughter. Her, being a girl and not even in the same class as me, I had no interest in having anything to do with her. It really felt like a kiddy version of an arranged marriage. (I would not turn girl-crazy until I had graduated, and moved onto the first grade.)

The other mother and her daughter were black. This did not mean anything to me, but it meant something to some kid riding by on his bike. I guess he thought that he could make a quick, anonymous hit-and-run when he pedaled by and yelled,


I almost did not hear it, but could replay it in my mind to figure out why my mother reacted the way she did.

“YOU! COME HERE!” she shouted.

“No, Rose. Just let it go. It’s not important,” the other woman protested modestly. I remember wondering why Mom was so upset. He didn’t even say it to her.


We were just across the street from the school. On the street in front of the school, there was only one lane in each direction, but they were wide lanes. This made her walk to the center of the intersection seem like she was standing on an island in the middle of the ocean. The kid was on his bike, but had one foot on the ground at that time. She got to him, stood over him, and I mean OVER him, and tore him about eight new ones about the ugliness of the word, respect, adults, more ugliness of the word, and something about what she’d do to him if she ever heard him use that word to anybody, adult or not, ever again. As school had just let out, there were people everywhere. They had all frozen, gone silent, and paid as much attention to what she was saying as the child had been doing.

That’s when it hit me.

She was my mother’s friend, and you do not let people talk to your friends like that.