A few years later my cousins on my Mom’s side of the family got together. One cousin, Judy, was late. When she arrived she brought her new husband with her. He was black.
I marveled at my cousins. There was a whole new appreciation for them. I secretly thought they were possibly the mind-set of the old generation. Frank (my cousin’s husband) was not treated different, ignored, or special. He was family. There were times I nearly came to tears.
This family came from the roots of racial hatred and rejected it.
This hatred came directly from my Mom’s Dad; my Grandfather. He spoke of blacks only in vile terms. He passed it on to his children, but somehow ended when it reached my generation.
Mom’s only exposure to blacks early in her life was from her Father. Logic, reason, and respect were tossed out the backdoor with the dish water.
Two of my first three years of grade school were in a school that had a considerable number of black students. A little black girl in my class a few houses from us was sick and absent from school. I got a candy bar from my Dad’s bar and delivered it to her home. Her Mother invited me in. The home was immaculate; as clean as any of my white family’s homes. I had always heard they lived in filth; at least that’s what Grandpa said and taught.
With my cousins all gathered we relived wonderful days of family gatherings rousting in the barn, romping in the basement, and ripping in the yard. The sparkle of youth returned but for a glimmer of time in our hearts, eyes and minds. We were young again.
Curiosity took the better part of me as I watched events unfold and Frank being drawn ever tighter and closer into the family stories and inside jokes. I had to talk to Judy who married the black man.
I summoned Judy privately. “Hey Judy, how is it I never heard about you marrying a black man?” I said and smiled. “How does one keep such a secret in this family?”
Judy coyly smiled and said, “Boy, have I got a story! When your son married a black girl it was such a relief. You would not believe what your Mom put my Mom through when I got married.”
“Yes, I can,” I said.
“You know how competitive they were?” Judy said. “One was always trying to out do the other.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “How well I’m aware. So my Mom really put your Mom through it?” Suddenly I looked at my cousin and said, “That’ it!”
“That’s what?” Judy said.
“When I told Mom about my son marrying a black girl she cried, sobbed and said something strange and mysterious; ‘It’s all coming back on me, it’s all coming back on me.’ She thinks she’s been cursed. She thinks she’s being paid back for how she treated your Mom.”
The mystery, though, not as sordid as I might have imagined was solved. I now knew what Mom meant by ‘It’s all coming back on me, it’s all coming back on me.’
As the day drew to an end there was a certain sadness that rested against me; a feeling that a gathering like this might never happen again. There were three cousins not present. They were missed. I was saddened also to think the pure unadulterated joy we all had that day never would have happened or under any circumstances been condoned if my Mom or her sister was there. Pride and prejudice were not present.
Before leaving that day I spoke briefly to another cousin, Sammy.
“Do you ever remember it being this much fun?” I said.
“No,” Sammy said. “Wasn’t this great!”
“Do you know why?” I asked.
“No,” Sammy said. “Why?”
“Because our Moms weren’t here to spoil it.”