Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Brown and White Coffee-tea

I was five years old. My world was small. I knew about breakfast and coffee-tea. I learned later in life that Mom would give us a kid’s version of coffee. Milk with a little bit of coffee. We called it coffee-tea, thinking we were drinking like adults. At five years old I didn’t know how to spell the word coffee. I didn’t know where coffee came from. Just that I liked the taste of it. All milked and sugared up. I knew that my Dad liked coffee. Iced coffee with milk and sugar. I was amazed watching him put together the old drip style pot. Like a three story building. Basket with coffee grounds in the middle. Water tower at the top, where he poured in the boiling water he had heated on the electric stove.

Five years old. I did not know about the Korean conflict that had recently ceased. I didn’t know that Dwight Eisenhower was president of the United States. I didn’t know what a president was or that I lived in the United States. I knew my family; and Mrs. Gould who lived next door and had a huge flower garden in her back yard. I did not know about wars and killing. I did not know about oppressive religions, about countries and power and control. I knew cartoons and Captain Kangaroo on TV. I knew about Superman, but I only paid attention to the fact that he was able to fly. I remember that from the black and white TV. I realized that Superman was not real. I knew that because I could not fly when I put on my own Superman cape. Well, not really a cape, but a bath towel which made a perfectly good substitute. Fastened around my neck, it flowed across the back of my shoulders, and flew like a flag in the wind as I ran, for a moment making my cape looked like Superman’s

I was five years old and did not know why some people had different skin color from mine. I didn’t care.  At that age I never heard of the race riots in Notting Hill, England. Nor was I aware of how black people were being treated in my own country. My world was much smaller. The only thing I knew of brown skin was my friend from a block away. Vince was from a family of two sisters and an older brother. He was my friend into adulthood. At my tender age, I saw a kid from another working class family. One of the kids on the block. With a mom who welcomed me into her home. With a dad who was always at work. Living in a rented house, like my family lived in a rented house. With a TV that worked when my family’s set was broken. I had no idea of the turmoil suffered by blacks. I could not conceive of the idea of slavery. I had no inkling that many white people had thought that it was fine to have other people held captive by society, to do their hard labor. I imagine that if Mom had tried to tell me all about it, that I would not understand. I suppose my five year old mind would take it as another fact of life. That blacks serve whites. If I had been taught of it, I would believe it just like I believed in Jesus and Santa Claus and Fairies. But my Mom did not teach me racism. She did not teach me that it was normal to hate people of different color. No. She taught me that it was normal to have a black friend at the age of five.  I did not have to wait until I was college age to find out on my own that skin color does not matter.  I did not have to move away from home to learn a life lesson.  I was not even cognizant that I was learning something. At the age of five, such was one of the small amount of things in life that I simply knew.