And that’s a very good thing.
What a great day I had today.
It was very close to 100 degrees here in Northern Massachusetts. Not a good day to do yard work, but definitely a perfect day to go to the lake nearby.
Our small town doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of culture, or the arts, or fine dining. We are a small, semi-rural community of folks who kind of scrap our way to a decent living. We have lots of woods, tons of deer and rabbits and fox, and more than a few black bears.
We tend to vote Republican, and we consider ourselves to be working class all the way.
We are also home to some incredibly beautiful places, including a gorgeous lake and campground that we often take for granted.
Today my smart daughter invited me to join her and her three little kids at our beautiful Lake Dennison, and of course I said yes. I wanted to find a way to stay cool in this scary heatwave, but I also went because I wanted to play with my grandkids.
And this is where I need to add my back story.
I’ve lived in this small town since 1990. My husband and I raised our three kids here. I’ve been to Lake Dennison a hundred times or more.
But today I realized that times have changed.
Thirty years ago, when I brought my kids to this beach, every face was white. Every single one.
But today was different.
Today I helped my grandson as he shared toys with an adorable little boy with brown skin and a Spanish speaking Momma. We all laughed and my daughter and I shared stories of motherhood with this funny, warm, sweet woman and her child.
And today I got to chat with a beautiful young African American woman as she snuggled her 4 month old niece in her arms. The baby looked at me with an intense frown and a look of total concentration. Then her entire body seemed to react to me and she grinned, showing two of the deepest dimples I have ever seen. She opened her brown eyes wide and raised her brows. She looked at me as if she knew me, and my heart absolutely melted right into my sandy bare toes.
Today I played in the water with a bunch of kids who had blond hair, brown hair, red hair. I laughed and splashed with kids whose carefully observing parents were black, brown, Hispanic, Asian, French Canadian and white.Every single one of the adults was hyper alert. Every single one talked to their kids about the fine art of sharing beach toys. Every one smiled back at my smile and every one shared our stories about “it goes by so fast!”
And I saw those people.
I saw them for our shared humanity. I saw them as people who were just like me in our desire to escape this awful heat on the shores of our little lake. I saw them as other parents, other grandparents, other caretakers of children.
But I also saw our differences. I saw. And I celebrated the gift that my grandchildren are given every time they have a chance to meet and play with children who have a different ethnic and racial background than their own.
I’d be totally lying if I said that I didn’t recognize the racial differences between my family and those who sat on the sand beside us. I did see it. I did recognize it and think about it. I was totally tuned in to the Asian Mom and her Black husband who brought their three kids to the beach. I was acutely aware of the folks speaking Spanish, and to those who were speaking accented English.
To me, one of the best parts of this refreshing day was my awareness of just how multi-cultural and inter-racial it was.
But even better than that is the realization that my grand kids were only aware of their interactions with other kids. Other kids.
THEY didn’t see race or ethnicity or language or economic status. All they saw was a day full of new friends, a chance to meet new kids, a life after the pandemic lockdown. They looked at the crowd of humans and in their minds, the group was broken down into two groups: close to my age and not close to my age.
Kid/potential friend vs adult/not a potential friend.
This is what gives me hope for our future.
While Nonni was happy to be in a multi-racial place, my grandchildren were creating a world where the only question that mattered was whether or not the person in front of them was a potential playmate.
I love this.
I feel uplifted.
Children give me such hope.