Writing that bit about my grandparent’s kitchen brought back a flood of memories, and lots of thoughts on my childhood and how things were back in the time I was remembering.
One thing I want to make completely clear: My grandmother was a wonderful, loving, very kind person. She was one of the most generous people I have ever known, was gentle and sweet and her strength was in the Lord. This much I know: My grandmother loved that little boy. She loved everyone she met, especially children.
Why would she hesitate to let me play with a little boy whose only difference from her beloved grandchild was the color of his skin? I have struggled to understand this all my life. The times. Were. Different. Which does not excuse it or make it acceptable, but the extent to which I did not understand “why” is more apparent the more I think about it.
There are many ways in which we keep the status quo, many ways that contribute to our failure to recognize that our “normal” is, in fact, perverse. One of the most malignant and hardest to see is…habit. Force of habit. We do things because they have always been done that way, we don’t do things because they haven’t been done before. And things don’t change. And people get hurt.
Another enemy of change is assumption. We assume that because things are the way they are, they always will be. We assume that there are good reasons behind society’s norms and we don’t attempt to delve deeper. We take the easy road and choose not to open the trunk, take out the reasons behind our actions, shake the wrinkles out and examine them. If we did, we could see clearly what was there. We could choose which articles we wanted to keep as a part of ourselves, which things need a little mending, which things need to be cast out.
So it took the question…”why can’t he eat his lunch in the kitchen with me?” This question was asked not just in innocence but with complete lack of understanding, like the fourth son in the Passover celebration who does not even know how to ask a question. And the answer? There is no answer to that “why” that my grandmother, in the goodness of her heart, could convey or accept.
I don’t know what the consequences of that incident were, in the long run. I am sure it caused a moment of unpacking, a shaking out of garments long overdue for destruction. I am sure that even at that young age the boy understood far more than I did. I wonder if he did come back to my grandparents house, and what happened? And I have no answers.
Thinking about this has made me want to go through my own trunk. What am I assuming? What am I accepting? What habits of mine are standing in the way?