A World Which Did Not Exist
Winter solstice. My thoughts go back to Christmas 1945 or 1946. I had perfect parents and perfect grandparents. They met every need but added so much more above the necessities of life. I was just a child of 3 or 4 years old. On Christmas morning(now-a-days I don't spell that with a capital C) I awoke to a beautiful electric train all set up on the wood floor in front of the gas space heater which I still have sitting in my garage almost 70 years later. The train was all metal, perfect in every detail. Its whistle sounded so real like the massive steam engine trains which thundered past our back door all hours of the night shaking the ground as we tried to sleep. There on a side track one train would wait on the other to pass while it hissed and blasted off steam in a night shattering game of waiting. When it was finally clear to go the monster would began a rhythmic series of massive blast of steam and slowly increase its rhythm as it slowly tempered the noise and faded into the night. The idea of Santa Claus was so magical and exhilarating. Mother and Dad poured their essence into making me and my sister happy. I can still see the single strand of tree lights with heavy cord, large bulbs all of which seemed to last more than 20 years. We were allowed to put the lead based "icicles" on the tree...the presents under the tree which we could only handle under supervision. Other wise don't touch!
It seems that that was the year that my uncle Ken came back from the navy and the war in the Pacific to reunite with his bride my aunt Helen at our home. He was laden with gifts which he purchased from the Japanese in Tokyo, Japan. For me he brought a tiny Japanese camera which one could hold in the palm of a tiny hand. It had real film and took real pictures. For my sister there was a hand painted picture of her on a silk roll. A Japanese artist had painted it from a black and white snap shot. The colors were vivid, the lips so very red and like the lips of a Geisha. I remember one other gift which I never considered much of a gift because I was terrified of chief Wahoo, a carved coconut with a fearsome glare on his face. His angry eyes were embedded seashells with great black pupils on bulging white eyes. His face was painted in warpaint, bearing his teeth in a menacing grimace. At his ears hung long dangling sea shells. It seemed I could see his fearsome face even in the dark and could never sleep in the same room. I would never even enter the room without a tight grip on Mother's hand.
Looking back it seems that I grew up sheltered from the hardships and the sorrows of life. I knew mostly joy and laughter...with out want, because in one way or another I was always in the grip of my Mother's or my Daddy's hand. ...and looking back, I realize, now that they are all gone, that world only existed in my mind and my oblivion was nothing like the reality of the rest of the world in 1945. More than 50 million people were killed in WWII including more than 300,000 American service men and women. Millions across the globe were left with scars which I never laid eyes on. Radiation burns, wounds of war, combat fatigue, empty chairs at the dining table.
I grew into the 1950s and 60s. Safe neighborhoods, walking to school,then bicycling to school, lots of guys in the neighborhood, sharing an idyllic life in the perfect post-war family not really realizing that negro children didn't have it so great. There was a public swimming pool 5 blocks from my house where no Negroes came. I hardly noticed. There were no Negroes in any of my schools. I became of age, got a license and a car. When I joined the military service, for the first time in my life the people in charge said, there will be no discrimination regarding race or creed. I slept in a bunk next to Negroes and ate with them at the chow hall. When I later enrolled in college, there were just a few black students, from foreign countries.
One of those students was a black man from Nigeria in his early 30s. Three slash marks on each cheek, of royal blood. In Nigeria he had been a school principal, a Baptist minister, a father of three children who with his wife waited for his return. He was a product of Southern Baptist missionary work there and came to the US for education. He was however not welcome at any Southern Baptist church in Harrison county Texas because he was black and was told to go to the local black churches to worship. He visited in my home, ate at my table. His name was Benjamin Adawoosi. It's been almost 50 years.
No the world I thought existed did not.
Gradually over time I have become a skeptic. Some people call me a pessimist because I have become someone who insist on facing realities. I am so dissatisfied with reality because I believe that people can actually choose to be good and do good. And there is a lot of good in the world and a lot of people doing good; they just do not seem to be in charge. I believe that democracy would work if we ever actually tried it. Eventually it will be tried...in the work place. That's where it will do the most good; businesses owned and operated by the people who work there. Practicing democracy at work.
Judson Malone, Winter Solstice 2013
Saturday, December 21, 2013
A World Which Did Not Exist