Your homemade fudge and brownies.
Horsey rides on your lap, with me as the cowboy being chased by a band of Indians, played by you.
Roller skating in the house with us “beetle bums,” well, that is until you slipped one day and cracked your elbow on our concrete tiled floor.
Racing down the hill from the car to the cottage at the lake.
Haircuts in the kitchen. And how could I ever forget the time you tried to style my hair like Duke Ellington’s? (Thanks, mom. The fellas on the block really liked that look.)
Your scoldings that could go on and on … and on, leaving me with nothing else to say but “Okayyy, ma.”
Listening to you play the piano, except when the Three Stooges were on or Bugs Bunny or pretty much any other time the TV was on.
The way you subtly bopped your head whenever you heard a nice jazzy tune. That way you called new, cool and stylish things “snazzy.”
The way you cared for Daddy and Madeline all those years.
Your authentic grace and compassion.
Your laughter and goofy sense of humor.
And the time I sought your advice to a real conundrum, you responded not with a suggestion as much as it was a directive: “Well, whatever you decide, you be nice because Wanda’s a very a sweet girl.”
The first time you held Jonathan and that look on your face. “There’s my baby,” you said.
I have just one question: What did I ever do to deserve a mother like you?
Happy Mother’s Day.
How many games of touch football were played on this street?
How many first downs reached? How many passes picked off? How many touchdowns scored?
How many games of kickball and four square?
How many races run, and ropes jumped?
How many activities paused, momentarily, to allow a car to pass? How many drivers asked to park in the driveway or a little ways up?
How many bicycles raced? How many wheelies done?
How many knees skinned, and elbows bruised on this street?
How many dukes put up to settle scores before things were cool again later that afternoon or the next day? How many fat lips traded among friends?
How many straw boat races held during the spring thaw, or after a heavy rain, in the gutters along the curb?
How many kids with fistfuls of nickels and dimes and quarters scrambled to catch the ice cream boy after being lured by the jingle-jangling bells on his three-wheeled ice box?
How many stops did the milkman make?
How many footfalls trampled the pavement, as kids stampeded home from the elementary school just up the block?
How many brown, withered leaves, from bygone silver maples and elms that once shaded it all summer long, settled here before being cleared away?
How many memories were made on this street?
More than they’ll ever be, ever again?
(c) Bob Campbell/bobcampbellwrites.com
This man was born 100 years ago today. The world has never been the same.
Georgia-born, he became a child refugee in the Great Migration when his father moved their small family north to Michigan where the father went to work for a booming automaker in a rising place called Flint. He was a boy during the Great Depression and, years later, was working as a janitor at AC Spark Plug when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
In December 1942, he kissed his young bride goodbye and marched off to war in Europe. After combat training in Fort Huachuca in the Arizona desert, he eventually went ashore overseas somewhere in Leghorn, Italy, with elements of the 92nd Division, the all-black combat unit in Uncle Sam's segregated Army. There, his division, part of the Fifth Army, fought its way up the Ligurian Coast and into the Northern Apennines and Italian Alps smashing German Nazis. When Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was captured, executed by Italian partisans and his corpse hung in a public square in Milan, he was just 20-25 miles away.
In the final few weeks of Spring 2020, I opened the front door one glorious morning and was treated to the tranquility of an American Goldfinch resting atop our planter. Truly a delight to see. So, I decided to pay it forward.
I’ve been broken
Like a lonely dream
Looking for a mind to enter,
But I follow the footsteps of love
Through the crowded halls of hate.
I’m a patient man,
From every act of unkindness,
One day, I will escape--
Meet me at dawn,
We’ll gaze at yellow birds,
Our affection will be new
Like the first day of creation.
~ by Uriah Hamilton
Kevin Roose's terrific interview on today's Fresh Air (March 16, 2021) about his new book, Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation, spoke to the transformation that occurred in the automotive industry and the effect on later generations in factory towns like Flint.
"We need to prepare for the possibility that a lot of people are going to fall through the cracks of this technological transformation. It's happened during every technological transformation we've ever had, and it's going to happen this time. And in fact, it already is happening. ... [A] lot of the people who went through those technological transformations ... didn't have a good time. They weren't necessarily happier, or living better lives, or wealthier as a result of this new technology. ... Old jobs have been disappearing faster than new jobs have been created."
This promise and peril of automation -- also known as "deindustrialization," from an earlier period -- is a theme in my novel Motown Man, which is set in the early 1990s in a fictionalized version of Flint. Bradley, the book's main character, is reminded of the plight of two individuals who fell "through the cracks" as industry automation, designed by electrical engineers like him, made certain jobs obsolete.
Meghan Markle told Oprah during the CBS-televised interview that several members of the Royal Family discussed with Harry concerns over what the color of Archie’s skin would be.
Her comments struck a core theme in Motown Man. Abby, a main character in the novel, is faced with that issue when her father questions what his daughter's marriage to Bradley will mean for future generations.
Read the Motown Man excerpt below:
[Abby's father] focused instead on the future grandchildren. No doubt they would be black even if they looked white. They would be black and forever marked with that indefinable quality of separateness. And if they came out with permanently brown skin, which was quite likely because of Bradley's complexion, there could be no faking it for the white grandparents pushing the stroller in the park.
I shed no tears about Rush Limbaugh’s death. Zero. His time had come, mercifully. I did, however, read with some interest the Facebook posts by certain acquaintances who paid tribute to him. I also noticed some of the "likes" and gushing comments by their friends, some of whom I know.
However, it was the one who called him a “great patriot” that set me off like Billy Jack in the ice cream shop. But, hey, I’m a writer not a fighter. So, I instead found a quote by poet Robert Frost that seemed apropos for the occasion:
“I hold it to be the inalienable right of anybody to go to hell in his own way,” he said.
I awoke the morning of Feb. 21 thinking how I needed to get up to let Max out. But instead of the tick, tick, ticking of his small claws against the hardwood floor as he paced about or the occasional bark to warn me that I had better get moving (actually, he hadn’t barked in months), there was only silence.
A day earlier, Max took his final ride to the vet. Unlike previous trips, he didn’t make a fuss. He rested peacefully against my wife's bosom. Afterwards, Wanda and I returned home alone. The blanket used to keep him cozy and comfortable for the ride over now folded flat and as empty as our hearts.
My 24-year-old son, Jonathan, had already said goodbye in his own way.
I've had this book for sometime but it got buried in my stacks. I finally pulled it off the shelf and jumped in. It's a terrific anthology, with an interesting variety of short stories and novel excerpts. It also introduced me to a number of writers I had never heard of.
I particularly like the stories in the section titled "Sistahs in Crime," especially Tell Me Moore by Aya de Leon and Night Songs by Penny Mickelbury. Also enjoyed the section "Spooks at the Door," which included novel excerpts from The Man Who Cried I Am by John A. Williams and The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee. Both novels are set in the late '60s and with themes of Black nationalism that characterized the period. After reading Greenlee's piece, I bought and read the novel. It's a good read, too. (I haven't been able to find a copy of Williams' novel.)
I don't read much crime and mystery fiction, with the exception of Walter Mosley (who's also represented in the anthology). This book delivers on the genre, wrapped in the richness and earthiness of Black culture across different periods of the 20th century.
I said once, in the presence of my father, how I wished to be older. I was, at the time, 12 or 13, maybe 14.
The comment wasn’t necessarily directed at him but more so at the rest of the world. Being older – “grown,” that is – meant freedom unlimited and command. I’m sure that’s what I thought.
Whether he was a contributor to the frustration I felt then didn’t matter. The audible statement had been broadcast for anyone within earshot to hear. My wish was now part of the public domain – like a tweet to a tiny circle of followers, posted with the hashtags #whoslistening #freeme #cosmiccars – and an invitation or plea, of sorts, for reaction.
My father responded almost reflexively. “Don’t wish your life away,” he sighed, as if thinking aloud and perhaps even recalling a much younger version of himself.
The depths of a father’s few words. If I were 12 or 13, maybe 14, he would have been in his mid-50s – about my age now – and retired from AC Spark Plug (earlier than planned due to a medical disability). He might have felt the finish line was now visible on the horizon, however distant. A constant presence like the inescapable gaze of a female portrait whose painted eyes appear to follow you across the room. Possibly in that very moment, the idea of a personal expiration date was too imaginable to ignore. (How many more seasons left on the calendar?)
Take my advice, he said without saying, make the most of your time where you are. Enjoy the beauty, the challenge and the magnificence of the moment if you can.
Contained within his prescient advice – “Don’t wish your life away” – was also a quiet, respectful appeal: “And don’t wish my life away.”
For, the older I got the older he got. He wasn’t ready to breach the horizon according to someone’s else watch. To the extent possible, his time remaining belonged to him.
He would live another 30 years.
(c) Bob Campbell/bobcampbellwrites.com