In 1967 I was born In Maryland .
If you are a Northerner Maryland is the South. If you are a Southerner Maryland is the North. It is completely fitting that I was born there to a legacy of Both. My Mother born and raised in Connecticut by a first generation Italian, social worker Father and a Mother who was a Nurse . They had 5 kids of their own, were foster parents to poor, disabled and Black babies , and a loving couple who had to leave their church because the congregation didn’t “think highly” of that…
the black baby part.
My Father’s people were from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Outer Banks of NC for as far back as the 17 the century. My Father “had to” marry my Italian Northern Mom… Like so many Men “had to” back in those days, and my Father’s parents didn’t “think highly” of that…
the Italian Northern Part.
I am certain they loved each other in the beginning but Those two had no idea how their differences would make it impossible to remain together.
My first memory of RACISM, and really anything, was in North Carolina when I was around 6. My Father was attending Duke University on a new Physician’s Assistant program through the Coast Guard. My Mom was working all the time, mostly nights as a nurse , and they were both trying to raise 4 kids on a prayer and a penny.
We Lived in a house right off of the Main street in small town Hillsboro. Our next door neighbor on the corner , an African American Church -or in those days- The Negro Church.
I remember WAITING for Sunday mornings to come.
I would jump out of bed and wait anxiously in the front yard, pretending to practice my cartwheels on our front lawn, or roll down the big hill that separated our yards, that … as it turns out … after seeing it as an adult , is only a tiny slant of a hill…. WAITING for the congregation to show up. They were the Most beautiful people I had ever seen. Always in their Sunday best. Brightest of colors . Brilliant and vivid colors in the form of dresses and suits and HATS and faces , skin and smiles!
The greetings!!! Genuine joy, laughter ,warm embraces and strong friendly handshakes , all of it I could almost feel from where I sat, or twirled. I wanted so much to get their attention and possibly earn one of those smiles or a wave… but no matter how hard I tried or how many mornings I was there…
they NEVER looked my way.
After they all filed inside , arm in arm,
the music and singing and praise would fill the air , my little ears and my innocent heart…
until… My Dad would see me… “catch me “… and say
“get away from there!”
Nothing was ever explained to me, but I grew to know I could never be a part of that beautiful and joyful community.
They could not be a part of mine.
They …. could NEVER EVEN RISK smiling at an innocent little white girl pretend practicing her cartwheels.
That is my first memory.