by Bella Rum

A couple of days ago, I was in the grocery store self-checking my groceries when I heard the happiest and most excited voice behind me. It was filled with joyful surprise, and then I heard another. It was two little girls. They could hardly contain their delight at seeing each other. When the smaller of the two saw her friend, whom I gathered she had not seen in a long while because she had moved and was now attending another school, she exclaimed, “Oh, Shanna! Oh, my friend! Oh, how I have missed you. I’ve missed you so much.” She was deeply sincere and more serious than I can tell you. Her little-girl voice sounded like an adult in its words and expressiveness. Unable to contain himself, a long “awwww” escaped Shanna’s father’s lips. I couldn’t stand it. I had to turn and see these two little girls. The smaller girl reached up and put her hands on each side of Shanna’s face, and sounding like an old, old spirit, she again said, “Oh, how I’ve missed you, my friend.” Shanna was beaming and  embraced her friend.

I lived in the same place my entire childhood. I knew every person on my street, and most of what happened in their homes. Other parents told me when I was doing something wrong, and my mother knew about it before I got home because a phone call was made. Probably half the neighborhood knew because we had party lines back then, and many were not shy about listening in on the conversations of others.

We looked out for each other. We also argued and annoyed each other, but it was a family, a community. When someone was sick or had fallen on hard times, a meal would show up at the door, delivered by one of the neighborhood kids. Someone’s mother had cooked extra and shared. There were a lot of good things about the way I grew up. Few kids today have that kind of childhood. It can’t be helped. Friendships blossom, and then one child moves. We are a mobile society. Still they bond, and they leave, and they bond again.

After that last fearful post, I wanted to write about something reassuring, hopeful. So I wrote this a couple of days ago: before the horrific events that engulfed Charlottesville yesterday. For some reason I didn’t publish it, but saved it instead. I felt I didn’t do the conversation between the little girls justice, or their genuine affection for one another, or Shanna’s father’s emotion. They were all moving. They were absorbed in their own drama, seemingly unaware of everyone else. I think the fact that one little girl was white and one was black was part of what moved me. I suspect that’s partly because of my age and because of where and how I grew up. White children and black children didn’t play with each other when I was young. The openly sincere and very public expressions of love these two little girls gave to each other never could have happened back then. Not in my world, but now it does. As always, I can only write from my own experience.

Yesterday we stumbled, but things do improve, and those two little girls are proof.