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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We both like Tomatoes.....

I grew up in Kemah Texas about thirty miles south of Houston, right on the Galveston Bay. My grandmother Minnie lived next door with my grandfather, the noble Horace, and his mother., Mee-Maw, lived out back of their house in the cutest little cottage by the chickens and the grapes.  My Aunt Alene and Uncle Hugh lived across the street with my three crazy cousins, Michael, David and Craig. I was my grandmother's only granddaughter, a very good position to have.

My grandparents had a business in their home and employed lots of folks.  These people were wildly divergent, they were from China and Mexico, French people from Louisiana (that is also where my Mee-Maw was from) and one person from Oklahoma....which according to my grandfather was a very bad place to be from....and that's another story. Then there were the women who worked in the house and took care of me.  It didn't occur to me that we were all that different. We ate together, worked together and laughed together.....I thought we were the same.  
And then I got a little older, and realized the world looked at people differently than I did.

One day my dad took me to the quarter horse races. It was a great time, with lots of Barbecue and as many cokes as I wanted.  It was also the first time I saw a sign that said, "white bathroom" and then another sign that said "colored bathroom".  And the same sign over the drinking fountains... White drinking fountains, colored drinking fountains.  I didn't understand what that meant but didn't ask anyone. I felt like I had walked in on a big secret, a really confusing secret.  Our personal histories dictate how we react to life and my history was I loved the people I grew up crazy cousins, my uncle Homer who drank all the time, Tom from China who grew the most beautiful roses, the men who took care of the horses, the women who worked for my grandmother.....they were all family. But these signs stated that half the people in my life couldn't drink out of the same water fountain, or use the same bathroom as I did.  It made no sense.  And then one day the answer came in a way a 6 year old could understand. My mother and I were taking Rosie, a woman who worked for us, home.  After we dropped her off we went into a black grocery store and my mother handed a brown paper bag to me so I could pick out some tomatoes.  I started putting them in the bag and as I was getting the last one I needed a black woman reached for the same tomato.  She pulled her hand back in deference to me.  Everything seemed to stop for a minute and then a voice came into my head...."See?  you aren't different, you both like tomatoes."  That was the way a simple truth was taught to me.

I wish we were further ahead, we can always be better, but it isn't what it was.