Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I am Curious Yellow...

The Leopard had an experience like this: I grew up in a pretty diverse neighborhood at the time in Stapleton, Staten Island. My friends were pretty mixed – Latin, Asian & white. We were the only black family, though.

One of my little friends had a large above ground pool in his backyard. I’d barely noticed it until a bunch of us kids were piddling around one hot summer day and someone said, “Jimmy’s pool is up!” Before I knew it, most of the kids had scattered to run home to get their trunks and towels. We were all so excited for some reason. I remember running home to tell my younger sister. When I got there, she was home watching TV and I remember how she beamed behind me as I asked my mom if we could join the gang.

We dressed as quickly as we could and ran in bare feet around the block to Jimmy’s house. As we got closer, we could hear some of the other neighborhood kids already there, splashing and laughing.

As we approached, leaning against the front gate to Jimmy’s house was his 7 year old sister, mouth stained red from a cherry lollipop stuck her mouth. As we started to pass her, she said, “You can’t go in the pool”. My sister and I looked at each other. “Why?”

“Because you’re colored.”

We were completely perplexed. We both ran back crying and told my mother. She grabbed both our wrists and dragged us back to Jimmy’s house. Jimmy’s younger sister was still standing in the yard in her yellow bathing suit.

“Let me speak to your mother! My mom said. Go get her.” When Jimmy mother’s came down, my mother told her in no uncertain terms she had no intention of allowing her kids to play with us anymore. Furthermore, she said, she had no need “For them to associate with people like you.” She said this forcefully without raising her voice or using profanity (she's a church-going woman).

Jimmy’s mother was nonplussed and apologized profusely, saying she never said anything of the kind to her daughter (I now think it was her father or one of  Jimmy’s older brothers). When we got home, she forbid us to play with them.

Whenever I saw Jimmy from then on, I would just stare at a distance, not sure how I felt.