Thursday, April 30, 2015

Race and Riots

When I was growing up, I don’t remember seeing color differences until I was in about third grade. I grew up in a pretty diverse community – this one, as a matter of fact – and the reality that some people are different than me because of their skin color was not something that I heard in the house I lived in.

When I was two years old, I met my favorite childhood friend. Brandy lived behind us, and we played outside most every day until my family moved from that home after sixth grade. At my birthday party while we were in third grade, Brandy gave me a small token of our friendship that I still display on a shelf to this day. It was a small plaque with a picture of two kittens on it – one black kitten and one white kitten – with a quote that reads: "How nice they always seem to be, the times we share, just you and me."

Upon opening the gift, Brandy, with a huge grin on her face, told me she picked it out because the kittens on the picture looked just like us. My little third-grade mind was blown away, as this was the first time I remember realizing that I do, in fact, look different from my best friend.

My own child is now the same age as I was when I had this revelation. Just the other day, in the car on the way to school, Michael informed me that another little boy in third grade called him the "N" word. Thinking I hadn’t heard him correctly, I asked him what word he was referring to. Sure enough, the other little boy didn’t call my son nice, neat or even nerdy.

I attempted in the best way I could to explain to Michael the significance of the "N" word, and why he, along with any other person, black or white, should not say it. After the conversation, he was full of questions, the same questions I continue to ask, the questions that I’m not sure there are answers to. Such as explaining away the rioting that transpired in Ferguson, and most recently in Baltimore. Why do people feel the need to go to extreme measures to prove a point? I don’t have the answer for that. But, the way I can do my part to prevent a future of civil unrest regarding race in our community is to raise a son who more than tolerates other races. I want my son to become best friends with all kinds of kids, regardless of race. I want him to see people the way I see people – not what color they are, but what qualities they bring to my life.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I was in grade school, lunch was likely my favorite part of the day. After sitting quietly (or as quietly as I could) throughout the morning, I finally had the opportunity to talk with my friends over our midday meal. While school lunches have changed over the years due to governmental regulations and guidelines, I’m fairly certain that this tradition of relaxation and camaraderie with classmates remains the same.

At High Grove Elementary School in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when I attended, one face remained constant every day during lunch. Mrs. Thompson would be behind the counter, busily preparing trays and offering a warm smile as students passed through her line. I remember I always tried to make a point to say something to her as I walked by: "Mrs. Thompson, the cookies smell delicious today," or "When is the next pizza day, Mrs. Thompson?"

Each time I interacted with her, she would look at me and smile, wipe her hands on her apron, come around to the other side of the counter and embrace me in a big hug. I remember her smelling of peanut butter and flour, likely from all the peanut butter sandwiches that were popular and her famous chocolate chip cookies.

Mrs. Thompson recently passed away, and when I read through her obituary (above), all the warm memories of her smile and grandmotherly manner came rushing back to my mind. I’m sure my young self thought of her as just that: another grandma who enjoys spoiling her kids. She was the beginning of my favorite part of my day growing up, and I have never forgotten her kindness.

It’s hard to believe that after all these years, I have such vivid memories of someone I hardly knew, other than in her work environment. But her love and care for me and the hundreds of kids she served at High Grove with a smile made her someone important to me. We never know the impact we have on others, and sometimes just a smile and a hug are all that is needed to boost someone’s day or lifetime. Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for loving me and all your kids at High Grove. You’ll be missed.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tears, Trials, and Truth

Divorce is hard, no matter how you look at it or how it directly impacts you and those you love. Unfortunately, sometimes there are things that happen in a marriage that cause it to fall apart, despite the wishes of one or both of the parties involved. Throw in a child or two or more, and the decisions of the adults directly impact the children.

Two months ago, my divorce was final. It’s not something that I’ve talked about publicly, and those who know have either heard from word-of-mouth or I have told individually. My personal life has always been just that - personal.

As the last several weeks have passed by, I have been asked more and more about my relationship status, as it has apparently become clearer to people that something was amiss (like my wedding ring, for instance).

I still love my ex-husband, as I spent the last seventeen years with him being a major part of my life. We will forever be united in our love for our amazing son, and through all the struggles that we have dealt with over the months leading up to the divorce, Michael has remained our priority.

There have been a lot of tears, but change is always a scary thing, even if it’s change that you asked for. I didn’t come from a broken home, and I was always told that divorce was not an option. The vows you make when you get married are sacred -- 'til death do you part. Taking back those vows was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

So, I thought it was time to come clean, and let all of you know that I’m okay; I’m happy, even. Life sometimes throws you curve balls, and this one was definitely a doozy. What’s done is done, however, and sharing the truth with all of you was important to me. Thanks for all of your love and support.