Not entirely sure why I’m blogging about this, except the moment struck me …
Yesterday afternoon the family visited Colonial Williamsburg. It was a long day. Some of the kids loved it, some of the kids were bored out of their gourds. There were old buildings and old horses and old stories. I can empathize, having long ago been the ages of my kids and nephews (a range of 8-years old to 14) and—at my dad’s behest—once upon a time shuffling from one 1770s scene to another.
Anyhow, along for the tour on this day was Norma Shapiro, my wife’s 95-year-old grandmother and Quaz No. 212. Norma’s one of my absolute heroes, but she’s going through a bit of a rough stretch. Nothing physical, but an illness in the family that has (rightly) dampened her spirits.
Soooo … we’re on a tour of the Payton Randloph House. It’s a group of, oh, 20 people, including my mother in law, my sister in law, Norma, myself. And the tour guide is just breathtakingly good—she’s a chunky African-American woman, huge dimples, radiant smile, probably mid-50s, speaking about slavery with a unique mixture of passion and compassion and detail. At one point, Norma excuses herself to use the bathroom, and leaves the tour for a solid 10-minute span. We go down a hall, to the right, up some steps, and the guide is just terrific; the best I’ve ever seen.
Suddenly, a door opens and Norma returns. But she doesn’t merely return. She enters the room, turns to the tour guide, gently grabs her chin and deliberately kisses her on the cheek before thanking her for having the patience to pause to fill her in. Again, I can’t do this justice. But it was the setting. The 95-year-old white woman. The mid-50s African-American woman. My white kids. My bi-racial nephews. Virginia. In the moment. All swirled into one.
I haven’t stopped thinking about it.