It’s Mothers Day Eve Eve. Or in layman’s terms, Friday night.
We’re back from Lansdale’s First Friday night, the boys and I have settled into the living room and are flipping through our limited non-cable channels for something to watch; they with their diet colas and “cheesy poofs” and me with my glass of cheap white wine and little dish of pistachios. As baseball fans, we all agree on the documentary-in-progress on PBS, a re-airing of Ken Burns series on Baseball that none of us has seen. It’s 30-minutes into the “Fifth Inning” when we turn on the television. This episode covers 1930-1940... Babe Ruth. Bob Feller. Joltin’ Joe. Dizzy Dean. The Negro Leagues and Satchel Paige.
As a family of baseball nuts, it’s the perfect choice to end the evening. We’ve just had a lovely stroll down our town’s Main Street, listening to mediocre musicians, popping into thrift stores and coin shops, and splitting desserts and fried pickles at the town’s Irish pub. As we settle in for the night, and the boys stop fidgeting and actually listen to the script being read by John Chancellor, 2nd grader Ben starts asking questions: “Why couldn’t the black player play with the white players?” … “They really couldn’t stay at the hotels or eat at the restaurants when they toured? Why not?” … “How come? I don’t get it.”
And with that “I don’t get it” … suddenly I do.
I may be a so-so sister. I may be an occasionally iffy friend. And I’ll admit to being a less-than-perfect wife. But that “I don’t get it” made me feel like a kick-ass mom.
That four-word sentence made me realize that I’ve done a decent job raising a color-blind, non-judgmental, all-accepting pair of sons. What’s to “get”? Treating people as inferior simply because they’re a different skin tone isn’t something you SHOULD “get.” It’s stupid. It’s illogical. It’s wrong. The fact that it’s beyond their comprehension makes me proud.
Sure, one of them may be floundering in algebra, and the other may be considering making competitive eating a vocation once he finishes 3rd grade. But they’re both two of the most decent, loving, unbigoted human beings on the planet. And I think/hope that I’ve somehow had a shred of influence on their becoming that way.
Mind you, I’m not exactly Mother Theresa and I freely admit it. I have a problem with people as a whole. I’m rather intolerant at times. Arrogant/ignorant drivers. People who talk on their cells loudly in public. Folks who act/feel like they have a sense of entitlement that sets them a notch above the rest of creation. Anyone who drives a Hummer. And anyone who has to punch a code into a gated community to make it to their driveway or lives in a “community” named after the species they wiped out to make room for their four-car garages…I could do without. But none of those prejudices are based on race, ethnicity, sexuality or religion. They’re based on your being a pompous asshole.
However, listening to my boxer-clad boys ponder why on earth anyone would object to a person of another color sitting/drinking/eating/residing or playing baseball alongside them flushed me with maternal pride. For all my Hummer-hating shortcomings, I have somehow successfully managed to rear two awesome sons who see people for what truly matters. Sure one of them can’t spell worth a hoot and the other one is a wee bit too cocksure for an 8-year-old. These are two boys who know what’s important; who know what’s right, what’s wrong, and know how to bait a hook without getting squeamish. I think that rocks. Happy Mothers Day to me.
I tried explaining in 2nd grade terms why some people during that time period treated people of a different color that way. Why mediocre white boys were paid quadruple-plus what players like Satchel Paige were paid. I thought of blaming it on the times, or blaming it on the South…but just one block away from our little three-bedroom-one-bath twin is a more expensive single home that proudly flies a Confederate flag in their front yard. And we live WELL above the Mason-Dixon. In 2011. So I told them it’s not about “the times”…and it’s not about “the South”…it’s about some people from the beginning of time having the need to feel better about themselves by looking down on someone else.
And they got it. They “get” it. They know in their heart/gut that the guy living behind us is making some sort of “I’m better than them” statement by flying that thing in his yard. Just like they know that the “old guy owners” in the documentary were making an asinine “We’re better than them” statement by keeping non-white greats out of the “real” leagues back in the day.
So I don’t care if I get any macaroni art or wilting flowers this Mother’s Day. Breakfast in bed, a quarrel-free day, a Hallmark card…I can live without ‘em. Just knowing that I’ve had a tiny part in raising two awesome boys who know that people’s worth has nothing to do with their race/gender/religion/orientation tops any brunch or bouquet.
(But a mug of hazelnut with cream and 3 Splendas would still be nice come Sunday morning. I’m just sayin’….)