I grew up during the 6o’s. I was born in 1955 and by 1960 I was more or less aware of the world around me. I remember going to kindergarten in Springfield, Illinois. My father taught Junior High School English. My mother was a telephone operator. Every morning I was dropped off at day care. When it was time for school, the five year olds were marched across the street to the elementary school where we attended a half day of kindergarten.
The schools in Springfield were very progressive. I remember being taught basic mathematical concepts with Napier rods. Those were the square sticks that were painted bright primary colors indicative of their length. We learned that two unit rods were as long as one rod two units long. We learned that four rods that are three units long were the same length as three rods that are four units long. I loved math class.
We learned to read about Dick and Jane and Sally and Spot. I learned to read very fast. I was hungry to read. My house was full of books and I was tired of looking at pictures and guessing what the words said. My folks read to me but I was a very independent child, an only child.
The next year I went to first grade in Rochester, Illinois, the suburb outside of Springfield where we lived. I got up and had breakfast with mom and dad and then walked to school. In the afternoon I walked from school to a neighbors house where I stayed until my mom and dad got home from work. Around Christmas that year my mom quit working. In February she went to the hospital and brought home my baby brother. I was no longer an only child.
That year at school we watched on TV as Alan Sheppard rode his Mercury Redstone rocket into space. In the afternoons when I got home from school, I watched the Three Stooges on the local afternoon kid’s TV show. Right after my mom brought my brother home from the hospital I was in the studio audience of the show. When the host interviewed me I said hello to my mom and dad and my new little brother and Lucile. When the host asked if Lucile was my girlfriend I said, “No, she’s my grandmother’s housekeeper that’s come to stay with us and help my momma take care of the baby.”
My momma later told me that Lucile had said, “Bless that baby’s heart.” She was overwhelmed with emotion to have been acknowledged on television by her employer’s white grandson. It was the sixties and I was a member of a generation that grew up with less prejudice than our parents. We still grew up with the burden of white privilege but we saw people as people totally blind to the color of their skin. At least that was how it was in First grade.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.