January 28th, 2012

new year

Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope

A couple Fridays ago I was sitting in Zuzu's cafe, the one right across from the zoo. A group of parents were talking outside, and little after three in the afternoon a bunch of kids got off a schoolbus, met and came inside. Zuzu's is a very child-friendly cafe, with toys and games and ice cream and excellent chocolate chip cookies, as well as a selection of beers for the amusement of their elders. Also comfy chairs and a sofa. Only a mile from my house.

The small table where I sat was at the end of a row of small tables next to a long upholstered bench, where I was reading. As their orders were filled, parental units and seven- or eight-year-olds began to sit in a group at the tables next to me. I gathered that this Friday meeting is a regular event. But it was a long weekend coming up, with Martin Luther King Jr Day on Monday. The kids knew all about the holiday.

One little girl began explaining who King was. A boy put in that he had been killed, maybe in an explosion, but was quickly corrected. Then Rosa Parks came up. They were not too sure whether she had sat at the back of the bus, or the front of the bus, but they knew it had been important. The adults provided answers as needed. Our eyes met, and we smiled at each other. What the man called a table of brotherhood. These Madison children didn't know what the back of the bus meant. Thank God Almighty.

It reminded me of when I was that age, when I lived in the Boston area, in the lily-white suburb of Newton, far out on the MTA line. At that time I was hardly aware of the events in Boston proper, although I heard of desegregation, and the news about forced bussing, the issue of school integration, and something about riots, whatever those might be. Later I read more about it. It doesn't seem that long ago. Fifty years.