Yea, I was a mishmash of everything. Look at me. Trying to find identity.
This picture was from 8th grade and I still can’t believe I let my friend Ann, chop off my hair like this. I went with my friend, Carol and her, to her house, and she pulled out the scissors, to do her work.Even at that time, I was adventurous. Always willing to experiment.
She was sharing the story about her stepmother, finding this green stuff, called, ‘marijuana, in her brother’s bedroom, and flushing it down the toilet. Then she told us he was into taking, ‘orange sunshine’ (LSD) Hmm, they made it sound so much like a dessert. Kind of like Tang. Don’t even think that stuff is around anymore. I mean, Tang, of course. However, we knew it was taboo, even then. But the stories, were exciting to listen to. We were the next generation.
Then one day we came over for lunch, and her mom gave my friend, Miriam, and me liver! That is the ultimate kiss of death! I mean come on. You know a person’s parent is giving you a pretty clear message with a meal like that.I was almost tempted to ask if they had any of that Tang, around, to doctor it up! My friend Miriam kept telling me, “just cut it up in small pieces and eat it with milk.” Well, I also hate milk. So that was a problem. Yea, I know. I’m from the dairy state, and that should be against the law. But so far, they haven’t charged me. But, I just couldn’t do it. So Miriam, ate mine. But, as much as I insisted, Ann’s mom couldn’t possibly like us, she said, “Oh sure she does. She just loves liver, and assumed we did too. “Yea, right. Cause we all know. Kid’s just love liver.”
Anyway, these were my friends, at this time in my life. But a few years before, which are like decades, in kid years, it was Romaine Reed. She was my best friend. She was black. Well, of course that wouldn’t even need to be a statement, now, but we were in the midst of racial tensions at that time. But as children, our worlds, didn’t know anything but friendship.
I met her after I had just moved into Parklawn. This was the project down the street from my school, Atonement Lutheran. She was in my second grade class. I lived on Sherman Boulevard and Congress. My house faced Sherman Boulevard, and I had some vivid memories of those days.
We had a whole cast of characters, living in that project. Although, Romaine was my best friend, I would say, Kathy was also another, best friend, if you could have two. I never liked saying, best, because it always kind of excluded someone. But you seemed to have people for seasons in your life.
Kathy became a best friend by my own stupid actions. I was sitting on a dumpster with a girl, Georganne. Georganne, clearly had a rivalry with Kathy, which I didn’t know about, and I was the new girl. And as Kathy approached, Georganne said, “here come Kathy, she think’s she’s so cool.”so. I really don’t know what it was she said, but she inspired such evil in me, that I took a rock I had in my hand, and I threw it. Never thinking I would actually land it. But land, it did. Right in her eye. I was mortified.
She turned around running into her house, crying. I had never been so mean. I left and ran into my own house to tell my mother what I had done. And my mom, made me go over to say I was sorry. I was scared. I thought she may look like a pirate with a patch or something.
As her mother opened the door, I realized how sweet an soft-spoken she was. There I saw, Kathy laying on the couch with an ice pack on her eye. Her eye was black and blue and swollen. Now I really felt terrible. I couldn’t believe I did that. I had always been extremely shy and compassionate. Yes, I could see how easy it was to swing, from the timid to the bully on the flip of a coin. I was precariously balancing on the need for this girls approval, and I didn’t like the way I was manipulated by her little voice in my ear. I learned a valuable lesson that day which I carried with me. I didn’t need to be liked by someone that much, that I would hurt someone else.
Now all I wanted to do was make it right. I felt so bad and just a little angry that I let Georganne get the best of me. Of course she was long gone and I’ve seen a lot of people like her in my life. Those kind, create trouble. They’re divisive and run at the first sign of trouble. They’ll leave you hanging when the storm begins to blow. Kathy forgave me, and her and I became very good friends after that.
I became friends with Georganne too, but always felt she was somewhat insecure, and kept her at arm’s-length Knowing that she couldn’t be fully trusted. I’m sure everyone has friends like this in their lives. And I’ve kind of used this as metaphors in my own. I see them come and go. I’ve been able to assess relationships in this way. The ones you know are keepers, and the ones you know are just around for a good time. But I am very cynical about those, who seem to call when they only need something.
But my friend Romaine and I never had such drama. She didn’t live in Parklawn either. She lived on the other side of the creek. She would come over to visit and I would visit her. I have some vivid memories that I recall and as my cousin was asking a question on Facebook the other day I had to think of one in particular. He said, he had memories of things like pictures in his mind.
I have always thought of one memory with Romaine, which seemed like a picture which should have been on the cover of Time, or some such magazine. I thought of this the other day, when my cousin brought up the vivid memories we carry with us during our lives. I’ve always had this one for some reason. The Snapshot. Frozen in my memory. A piece of history. Her and I had no idea of what we were experiencing. We were so close. We were sitting on the corner of Congress and Sherman Boulevard and down the street were rumbling army tanks. One after another. We were two little girls. One black and one white. “Wow!” I said. “I wonder what is happening.” We were in awe. But many years later as I learned we were witnessing the National Guard on their way downtown to try to squash the ‘race riots.’
I had to think of the snapshot of that moment. What a picture of us on that corner from up above. And even the names of the streets. A Sherman tanks, and an act of Congress to call out National Guards. All of it a play on words.
This was our favorite corner to play on and once she told me, “Girl, you need to get you some soul! On that corner, she taught me how to dance. She showed me how to do dances of that time. Right before Soul Train had it’s beginnings. Don Cornelius, rest his soul. There was ‘The Popcorn. The Mother Popcorn, The Hesitation, The Meditation, and who could forget the Funky Chicken? Well, actually how many of you are old enough to remember this? But man when the Bump came along, we were in heaven. That girl taught me everything.
The music was divine. A beautiful mix of love, peace, soul and political activism with, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and even Bob Dylan. Songs like ‘Eve of Destruction,’ which, I might add, would be very timely for today. So many artists responsible for the birthing of this great movement.
It was the generation which brought about change.A torch which has been passed down to the next generation. The snapshots were indelibly burned upon my mind and I did ‘get that soul, my friend Romaine talked about. But it was more than the dance.
She inspired so much more in me. I have always loved those who are the underdog. The beaten down. The forgotten ones. My friend Romaine and me, were friends no matter what color our skin.
I can still hear her laugh. I remember our trip to Capitol Court. It was an outdoor mall, before they had indoor malls. We would all go there to hang out when we were kids. We were about 10 years old and I probably was about 80 pounds. I tried on a pantsuit. It was cute. I remember thinking I liked the print. As she watched me put it on I looked down and asked her, “what the heck is this square thing in the front of the pants?” We both started laughing so hard. Everything seemed to fit, but there was this huge panel in the front of the pants, and we were cracking up at this very strange defect.
A saleswoman heard us and started yelling into the dressing room, for us to get out immediately. “Stop fooling around in there right now!” she said. I came out with Romaine, and we were both still laughing so hard, and the woman snatched the outfit from me. “What are you doing with that?” She said. “What is this?”" I asked her. “You know darn well that’s a maternity outfit. Now get out of here!” She said. “Oh my gosh!” Now we started laughing even harder.
Neither Romaine or I had any idea what this thing was. And it’s not like, even with all the kids my mom had, that she had ever worn something like this. That’s what made it even funnier. We were crying by the time we left this store,and the saleswoman made it all the funnier.
The thought of Romaine’s long legs in fetal position, laughing til she was in tears, in that dressing room, leaves me with just one more ‘snapshot,’ for the archives.