Friday, July 17, 2009

Time Travel

"Who is the pregnant woman?" I asked, thinking she looked vaguely familiar.

"See the boy in the Spiderman shorts?" she said.

He was a young, African American child of about three.

I admit, I had noticed him but only because in forty one years of summer visits, I had never seen a person of color at this particular swimming pool.

"Yes, I see him," I said.

"That's Bob," she told me. "He's her son and now she's pregnant with her second child."

"Is Bob's father here?" I asked looking around.

She shrugged.

"No one knows who Bob's father is, " she confided. "No one knows who the father of the baby she's about to have is either... or even if the two children will have the same father."

My cousins or their friends always catch me up on the local gossip during my two visits a year to my Granny's rural, Virginian community.

Throughout my life, all the stories they consider most scandalous have reached me in these hushed whispers.

Everyone's secrets are known and shared, passed along at covered dish suppers at the church and beside the pool on the Fourth of July.

Eventually, they get tired of talking about any given scandal and shift into a state of acceptance, but there is a long, crowded trail of whispered words lining the path to that destination.

"Bob is a wonderful child," she said, "but the truth is that he is going to change things around here."

My faced asked her to say more.

"More and more, people are coming from farther and farther across the county to join this pool. It's gotten so I don't know everyone that swims here any more."

She looked wistful for a moment, then went on.

"There's never been a black person that belonged to this pool. It's a private, community pool for our friends. While we can't legally keep anyone from joining, there's been a long standing respect for the fact that we pulled together and built this pool for ourselves. We welcome any other community to pull together and build their own pool too."

She paused.

I understood that she expected me to interpret what she said in a particular way.

I felt awkward and shifted from foot to foot.

"Now black people are going to see Bob up here and they're going to ask to join and we're going to have to let them."

She paused again and then shrugged.

"Bob is a sign of the times, I suppose. Things are changing and these are the times we live in."

-July 4th, 2009


Anonymous said...

We also noticed Bob on Aunt Nancy's flicker page. We were surprised to see Bob there also and thought maybe times are changing at the Paces pool but then I remembered how people of color are seldomed accepted other than as farm hands even today still in Paces Va. I hope times are changing but I doubt it. The history runs too deep. We leave for Yellowstone on Sunday. we are soooooooooo excited. Loved seeing all of you in Nancys pictures your children are getting so big and smart!
Jessica my password to send this message is adybook is that erie or what. We have been thinking so much of Granny and Ady as we get ready to take our trip. I know they would be so happy for us. It is for our 30th anniversary and both girls are comming along.

Aunt Candy

Maddy said...

Blimey! Glad I didn't have to deal with that one nor explain it to my son in law.

Anonymous said...

About time.

Omaha Mama said...

Are you kidding me? I kept waiting for the punchline. Huh.
Sounded like 1969, rather that 2009. I hope she is right and that things are changing. I am just so naive.

Sayre said...

How odd. I grew up in the 1960s but it never occurred to me that there was anywhere black people couldn't go or wouldn't be welcomed. I thank my parents for that. I told my son about segregation and civil rights when he asked who Rosa Parks was and why it was a big deal for her to sit on a bus. He looked at me like I was pulling his leg. I'm glad I can pass along the same blindness to my own kid.

Amy said...

Wow. Just wow.

Kim said...

Good for Bob.

Mary G said...

Our very rural community now has a sprinkling of other coloured faces -- in our school and working locally. We also have hijabs and a turban or two. Seems to be happening quietly and smoothly.
Good luck with the 1950's redux. Maybe they'll get over it, maybe not. But I hold my neighbours dear; they're more tolerant than I had expected.

Heidi said...

How sad. Just today at work I viewed my kid's camp's home page to view photos of them during this week that they've been away. My African-American supervisor saw photos of my caucasian children hugging and mugging for the camera with African-American and hispanic children - all with huge smiles on their faces, obviously enjoying their weeklong friendship and fellowship. God bless them - it gives me hope for this world!

BOSSY said...

Thank goodness for Bob, dear thing, even though it appears he's going to have a time of it. The politics of place, sister mercy will it ever End?

Liam's Mom said...

Floored... since "wow" is already taken.

Katybeth said...

What an honest straightforward family you have and community they belong nice. Better than liberal guilt anyday...and it seems they are open to the idea of change....and uhm...does Bob or his family seem to be bothered by it?

N said...

Gee, are you sure you weren't talking to my mom? And she was the second to least racist in her family. I thank The Lord my Uncle Harold lived with us. There was not a racist cell in his body. I was out of 5th grade before I knew that all little white girls did not have uncles who bought them black baby-dolls.

Miss Grace said...

This infuriates me. In a blood-boiling way.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that this woman lives in this century. Sad.

ephelba said...

Ahhh, but the times change too slowly for the Bobs. Tell everyone who says racism doesn't exist anymore about Bob's story. It hides it's head more than it used to, but it's a conniving, sneaky thing and it isn't dead.

Patois said...

Can't be more than a stone's throw from the place my mom and her husband had in Virgina. They wondered why I got all in a snit when they commented that no Blacks could join their club. They also felt no Blacks would want to. Of course, many Blacks wanted to be the wait staff and all. I was appalled a dozen years ago. I remain appalled.

Kyla said...

Reminds me a bit of this story... I couldn't believe it when I read it. I just can't believe that sort of thing still happens.

NotSoSage said...

My heart goes out to dear Bob and his mother. Good for her.

Magnorth, Cape Town said...

Realising that that kind of crap is STILL going on in the good ole US of A makes me pretty damn proud to be South African right now I can tell you!!!

Panda said...

Well Lordy, I have no idea what to say to that, besides W.T.F?

Surely they've seen black folks at the pool before? Skimming leaves or serving drinks?

Sugarplum's Mom said...

I am always shocked and saddened when I hear stories of places that are stuck in this time warp. It makes me sad for everything they miss out on. How much more colorul and enriching life is with different ideas and cultures embracing and enjoying each other. WOW.

Miss Ash said...

Change is beautiful.