Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How quickly we forget...


It wasn't that long ago...
I saw The Butler Saturday afternoon
and was moved by the memories it
brought back. Growing up during
the sixties, our world of constant
turmoil seemed normal. Everywhere
one went you were confronted with
conflicting messages. Thinking that
was normal, one didn't question the
dychotomy. It was a part of life and
therefore ordinary. Who knew that
within my lifetime, the racist schism
would be outlawed? Slowly, we've
become one... or at least tried to.

Seeing in believing
My Dad worked at Manufacturers Hanover Trust in Harlem His important customers were Jewish shop owners and "Negro" community leaders. Howard never saw race or color, only people. I'm fortunate in that my Dad's legacy has enabled me to be "color blind" all of my life. But as I look back now, some of the most important people in my life have been "colorful". Not that I ever noticed...

Small world
The day Dr. King was murdered, my
Dad rushed to Harlem. Remembering
the 1964 riots, he wanted to show the community he cared. Howard and several colleagues sat in front of the bank sharing their condolences with all who stopped by. Mayor Lindsay walked 125th Street to share his grief and support. My father was deeply moved by the events of that day. Who knew a banker could be so brave?

My first love 
As a boy, I knew nothing of these
problems. Our home was filled with
love. Della was the strong and wise
black woman who helped raise me.
We were "buddies" and I adored her.
After Della retired, every few weeks
an envelope would arrive. Inside was
a card addressed to "my boy", one
dollar bill, and a stick of Juicy Fruit
gum. The day Della died, I felt a deep
sense of loss that was not equaled
until my parent's deaths many years
later. You see... Della was family.
Travels with my aunt...
Marshall and Norma Cole were my
father's customers and the most elegant
of my parent's friends. World travelers,
a visit to their posh Harlem hi-rise was
always a treat given we were served
some delicious discovered delicacy.
Throughout my childhood beautifully
wrapped packages would arrive from
exotic places. Inside a lengthy letter from
Aunt Norma described their latest locale.
Her kindness provided fodder for many
a show and tell. The Coles taught me to
explore the unknown. They were family.
My favorite cousin
I've built my career in a very small
industry. Years ago I met a vibrant,
smart, witty, and beautiful woman
at an agency we were considering.
Given we shared the same last
name we immediately embraced
and declared ourselves "cousins".
Later on, "B" Clark joined us at
Marshall Fields and we've enjoyed
a love fest ever since. My respect
and appreciation for this lady is
beyond description. While not a
true blood relation, she is family!
Lessons learned
I am adopted. Therefore I shared no
physical connection with my parents
and yet... we were as close a family
as most. I was blessed to have a father
who believed that we are all exactly
the same. Howard never saw color
and fought against inequality. It's so
amazing that he was who he was in
a time when few acted publicly in a
similar manner. He taught me to not
see color, just shades of kindness. If
only Dad could see the glorious rainbow
our world has become. He'd be proud.