The world my kids know

This weekend we had a block party on my street. The wife—an absolutely incredible woman with no limitations (I know … I know, she’s my wife. But it’s really true) organized it. I’d say roughly 80 people showed up, and it was insanely, insanely fun. Big blowup slide. The ice cream man. Two blow-up pools. A shockingly fun sprinkler game. Whiffle ball in the street. Bubbles. A bbq, manned by my bbq-gifted father in law. Heapings of food and drinks—juice, beer, soda. The local police department closed off the road.

I know I’m a liberal hippy-dippy, and sometimes I sound like some Woodstock refugee, but as I looked around, music blaring from a nearby radio, what I loved most was the merging of colors and religions and backgrounds, and what it says of America: 2011.

Back when I was growing up, in a nice small town called Mahopac, N.Y., everything was white. There was white Italian and white Irish, white Catholic and white Anglican, white nice and white mean. But, were one to look around, all he’d see was white. This is no exaggeration. I had one Asian friend, Scotty Choy, and one African-American friend, Jon Powell. That was it.

And while I loved the innocence of my youth, the games of night tag and the ring of the ice cream truck and the nearby community pool, I look back and acknowledge a profound lack of richness of culture.

Yesterday’s BBQ included whites, Asians, African-Americans, orthodox Jews and devout Christians and agnostics (like me) and on and on and on and on. It was a marvelous thing; an experience and exposure I desperately want for my children. Best of all, I don’t think people gave it much thought. Maybe no thought. We were all simple neighbors hanging out; bonded by a hot summer day and the tightness of community. I’m not sure whether people can be 100 percent color blind and culture blind and religion blind, but my kids are awfully close.

When I was, oh, 12ish, an African-American family bought a house a few streets over. The nearby residents actually started a petition to keep them out. A petition. My parents were appalled, and I remember my dad saying, “Sadly, it’s the world we know.”

No, I’m happy to say. It isn’t.

7 thoughts on “The world my kids know”

  1. Nice piece, nice weekend. We’ll know that society has improved if, in a few years, your son or daughter can write a similar article without being obligated to mention that everyone was a different color and religon.

  2. You said ” Yesterday’s BBQ included whites, Asians, African-Americans, orthodox Jews and devout Christians and agnostics (like me) and on and on and on and on.
    How come there were no Puerto Ricans at your BBQ yesterday, papi??????
    It doesn’t sound like there were any Latinos at your BBQ. I guess the neighborhood told all of their gardeners and maids to take the day off.

  3. Dave G– it’s disappointing, but not necessarily shocking depending where you’re from.

    I’m from Philly and remember co-workers trying to get me to sign a similar petition in 1999 (I was 17 at the time, didn’t sign). Later, they staged a protest outside the house. Recently told one of my NJ neighbors about it, and their only objection was that it’s easier to drive them away if you just put krazy glue in the locks.

  4. Listening to the comments about petitions and such I am thankful for where I grew up.
    Eugene OR was very white also.
    My father had some visitors from Africa related to work.
    He decided to invite them to our house for dinner.
    This was some where around 1960 give or take a couple years.
    He warned us some people might have a problem with it.
    Nobody did, not one single person ever said anything negative, many just asked if they enjoyed their stay in America.

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