I was going to write about something lighter today, the chuckly war stories shared amongst people who have experienced the horror of knee surgery. But, leave it to Oprah to get me off-track. Watching her special on Martin Luther King and his impact on our world today made me think about issues beneath my emotional epidermis. The Gee’s Bend segment picqued my interest as I love those darned quilts the locals produce. But the portion of the program that really got my attention was the story on the Lovings case and interracial marriage. I didn’t need to be told the difficulties of romantic relationships black and white as I experienced it at way too tender an age. In days of yore when panther shirts and Twiggy cum Pat Benatar haircuts were rule of law, I had a not so little crush on the cappucino boy bander with a penchant to give me morning maple cream sticks. (Creamsticks are an irresistible Midwestern delicacy worth a whole post of their own, trust me!)
Back to Oprah’s interracial segment…it brought back the pain of being under society’s microscope with my childhood romance, faced by a sea of people who didn’t know us but nevertheless passed judgement and were concerned about my lilly white social standing. I loved Lance, a hilarious, warm-hearted national honors student; well as much as a 14-year old can who is in marching band, wears leg warmers and passes notes in study hall. But the experience of having our relationship revealed by cold-war worthy spies, running into opposition we couldn’t overcome despite his articulate pleas and having to give up him (a first love I so cherished) changed me and my heart forever. It ripped the shiny, happy veneer off the whole world, taught me that elders aren’t always wise and put me square in the path of pain and inequity.
I lived life my sophomore year of high-school through his eyes and that of his forefathers and mothers. It wasn’t pretty and I’m not sure it’s ever left the depths of my soul. It did however give me a lasting appreciation and deep-gut fire to fight for the equal rights of society’s less equal. I’ve often wondered what would have come of us if we would have been permitted to date like normal footballers and cheerleaders (OK geeky debaters and first-chair saxophone players) Remarkably, we were pretty darned compatible and chemistry-laden. An answer was not to be, which is probably better given our combined nappy hair quotient.
The good news? Lance and I have survived over twenty years of tumult to be fabulous friends and joke that we will still be trading sarcastic barbs and stories of youth (if our memories hold) in the nursing home. Perhaps fate will have the last laugh. I thank and celebrate him for sticking by me and us through thick, thin, my pain-soaked attempts to shut him out and the driveway screaming and dissapproval imposed by others. For those in the know, two words- Depeche Mode. We are bound forever by love found, love lost and lasting friendship – our own little interracial tragi-comic E! True Hollywood Story. And I feel positive we both smile as we look at the 50-year old ebony and ivory couple in the Belden Village Friendlys “Loving”ly sharing the sundae spoon, knowing that in time, everyone comes around to the right way of thinking.
I have a dream and it is no longer a nightmare.