Once the family had gathered at the beach, we all took stock of the tide, which rushed furiously past us, spitting foam. My uncle handed Papa a long wooden spoon for the ashes and together, they wobbled to the edge of the rock.
They called my mother. When she came to pick me up, her whole body was in a controlled rage. She spanked my butt on the way to the car as I cried and tried to explain that I didn’t do it on purpose. “It was just a game,” I told her. She told me never to play games around white children. I didn’t understand. It was just a game.
Karen J. Weyant thoughtful essay touches on the rural and urban divide: "City people was a code word that we all used for those who came up from Pittsburgh. These people simultaneously admired our beautiful wildlife in northern Pennsylvania yet wondered out loud how 'anyone could possibly live like this,' in reference to our small towns with single stoplights, two or three gas stations, and no fast food restaurants or malls. "
Steven Harvey finds music, ruminating on the rhythm of words in nature while hiking. "We crack up at the dactylic rhythm of “pipsissewa,” which means “broken into small pieces,” like the river itself, and when we come upon a pink azalea in full bloom, we give out a cheer, creating our own music."
We had parties at Ted’s once a month because his mom worked nights and his dad didn’t see the point of legal drinking ages. We were all under twenty-one at the time, and we didn’t go away to college—those of us who went at all—so Ted’s basement was our version of a frat house. In some ways, it was safer, and in some ways, more dangerous.
At this writing, I have called New York City home for three decades—several years more than I’d been alive when I moved here. I have lived in Harlem, though mostly in my current home of Brooklyn, and I’ve worked in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. I got married in Prospect Park and sent my children to public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I have served on two juries, voted in eight mayoral elections, and watched the progression from one-dollar subway token to $2.75 MetroCard. I am a New Yorker.
Childhood is a mortifying thing, best forgotten.
Less than a month later, watching the bomb named Little Boy falling from the Enola Gay towards the city of Hiroshima, co-pilot Captain Robert Lewis said, “Look at that son of a bitch go!” What he wrote in the log he was keeping for the New York Times, however, was, “My God, what have we done?” At least one fellow crew member remembered him saying this aloud on the flight back to Tinian, so maybe he did try it out, having liked the sound of it on the page.