Thursday, April 03, 2008

Assumptions | Undirected Play

I recently met a new neighbour at a peace march. Winston, my husband and I were standing in the street talking and listening to the music when a lovely middle age, White woman marched up to us.

She wanted to let us know she’d seen this past year and wanted to introduce herself. We were charmed. (Sort of - I mean - it takes a peace march to inspire a formal introduction? Our yard is eternally filled yacking, gabbing, gossiping neighbours, friends and shrieking kids.)

Regardless, we were pleased to meet a new neighbour. But, then she asked the strangest thing. “Do you run a day care out of your home?”

Confused, I splutter laughed, “No! Why!”

“Well,” she cheerfully asserts, “You always have such great kid-centered activities going on in your yard.”

To which I reply, “We have a kid.”

“Of course,” she nods.

It feels vaguely like she is reassuring herself that this is in fact the case. After all, our son is there holding his self-designed sign. And much as I could go off on a rant about how White people view the Black families who move into their comfortably integrated neighbourhoods. I shall not. There are facts which sit sullen and growling at my feet. And they are that...

we’re different. Really, outstandingly, bizarrely different. I learned this the hard way the other night when I embarrassed myself in front of Deesha’s friends by succumbing to the drink on the onset of menses. (This is a learned behaviour I never unlearned...’nother story...’nother time.) Regardless, we are some hard to understand Negroes.

We are the Negroes who can be your only Black friend and not even care because the quality of our relationship and shared interests transcend the swamp gas of race arousal which suffocates everyone else.

We are the Negroes who suckled MLK Jr’s speech on our Mama’s breast and allowed it to form the very muscles which hold us up.
We are the Negroes whose parents insisted upon our smooth integration and had the law, the finances, the community standing and audacity to raise eyebrows with fountain pen poised over an open chequebook. (May I make a clarification that my husband was not one of the aforementioned Negroes and still his parents fulfilled the first part of the statement.)

We are the Negroes who never stop to think we might be denied by just being ourselves. Daily, we live our daily doing a Nike. (Read “just do it.”)
And assuming everyone else is. (Or isn’t depending upon the information available to them during their formative years; or that peculiar random roll of the die called access; or simply because as good as we got fitting in, White America is eternally shifting to acclimate to our acclimation.)

I’m not saying we had it easy. Jack, Jill and everyone else didn’t like us either. We’re downright weird. Everyone knows you can’t mix up consciousness, community unity and “peace with all people” without being some kind of sell out. And if you are a “sell-out,” you can’t have those uncompromising, so called righteous people rapping at your back.

Nobody likes someone who understand that a box can become 2-dimensional at any moment.

Unless you are weird. And, I’m happy to count a whole lot of “weird” people as my friends. But, the fact remains that, the first few months my husband and I dated were spent whispering, cuddling, touching, oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing, “I always wanted a Black friend.” That’s how lonely we integrated, conscious, Negroes were. We had to find, meet and work out the weird relationship kinks with our life/soul mate in order to have our first real Black friend. And to this day, he is my only close “Black friend.”

But, I digress. This White neighbour couldn’t imagine that we could be as weird as White people with no profit motive involved. This neighbour couldn’t imagine that I could be so resourceful as to find the $4,000 worth of play equipment in our yard for under $80. (At a yard sale in a richer neighbourhood, with lots of schmoozing about home education.) She never asked. She assumed.

And I can understand her assumption. White or Black - people don’t expect their children to use the resources at hand. Many of the kids in our neighbourhood are either in front of a t.v. or pushing buttons on a toy in their yard which tells them what to do. The play park a 1/2 block from our house is filled with unsupervised toddlers and teens. They’ve been turned outside to “play” while the adults watch tv. They tussle and grapple over tiny gameboys and other electronic media. From time to time, they use their creative energy to destroy the equipment.

So we are an anomaly. I am grateful for this. Ad yet, I don’t wish my path on my son. Some days, I wish he could just be quiet and push buttons.

Thanks to my friend Karen, I am validated in my beliefs that "
Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills" regardless of what class, race or gender you are.


Ferocious Kitty said...

*sputtering* How, pray tell, did you embarrass yourself???

If I recollect, a rollicking time was had by all!!!! Must do it again some time...

Christina Springer said...

If you say so....

*sheepish smile.*

really? you mean that? and thank you for for staying with me.

*popping chin back up way high*
and boldly stating, "huzzah!

that would be lovely. and thank you for saving me the apologetic email."

Ferocious Kitty said...


*slamming Franziskaner down on the table*

I have had two all-nighters this week, and am aiming for low-key. The girls have been asking to go to the park, so we might do that weather permitting. I'll keep you posted. Right now, I just want to curl up...