Monday, October 17, 2011

The Early Days

As I mentioned before, I'm the middle child. I have an older brother and a younger brother. When I was little I used to always ask my mom when she was going to have me a sister. Since that never happened, I had to make do with two brothers. When we were little kids, we had the usual childish spats, but we also had lots of fun together. During the summer our time was spent playing with Tonka trucks or playing baseball and football. We would also ride our bikes through the woods and through my grandmother's yard because she lived next door. One thing I can say about my brothers is that they never treated me like someone who was weaker and couldn't do what they could do. Until I was about four or five, I actually thought I was a boy, too. Of course the whole anatomy thing never occurred to me. Luckily I caught on before I started school.

For me, school was a wonderful place. I loved to learn. Once I learned how to read, my time was spent with my nose in a book. I forgot to mention that I grew up in a predominately white area. Each year of my elementary schooling I was the only black child in my class. That would be pretty much impossible these days, but this was during the 1980s. My introduction to racism came when I was in kindergarten. It was recess time and we were all outside on the playground. A friend of mine and I were under a shade tree, by a fence playing in the dirt. A couple of feet away from us was a boy who was in another class. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it included the word "nigger". Because no one had ever told me otherwise, I didn't even know that "nigger" was a racial slur. I didn't know that I was supposed to be insulted. My friend, of course, knew what deal was and she told the teacher. The kid got a lecture about name-calling and that was that.

Even after that happened, I don't think I fully grasped the fact that I was supposed to be "different" from other people. When I watched TV, all I saw were people. I never even thought about the fact that some were black and some were white. Most shows during those days featured white casts, but I was never bothered by the fact that there was no one who looked like me on most of my favorite shows. One show that I identified with very much is Good Times. Although the Evans family lived in the projects of Chicago, I felt like my family was the country version of them. They lived in a two parent household with the father being the sole breadwinner. There were three children, two boys and a girl in the middle. The girl got the second bedroom while the boys slept on a foldout couch in the living room. The way that my life differed here is that I had the second largest bedroom in our trailer and my brothers had to share the smallest one. The similarities between my family and the Evans family were abundant. Although we were poor, I didn't realize just how poor until I was out on my own.


  1. You adapted well friend. Very well. I would think being the only black child in an all white school would be difficult, yet you handled it well and so apparently did your friends. You became a fine person in spite of all the odds.

  2. Michelle, I was a tomboy too. I never played with baby dolls and most of my friends were male, until I got into my teen years. I'm surprised and impressed that the kids in your school didn't treat you badly. Was encountering serious racism when you grew up more of a jolt for you because of it?

  3. Iz luv your storee. It sownds like you had a rilly nice fambly. Herz did go to skool in da sebenteez an remembers da furst black fambly in da nayborhood an skool cuz theyr daddy werked wiv Herz an they wuz furrends but not clowse cuz they wuz diffrent grades but we still noes them on FB MOL wat a diffrint werld it wuz back then. Humanz is stranj.

  4. That's the way it should be, not seeing colors. I'm glad you weren't treated badly, except by that hater. TW was a tomboy too.