Until we know better, we all think we had a normal upbringing. Until we are older and look back on those early, formative years, we really don’t have a clue. Or at least that is what I think at this point in my life.
I recently remembered a time during my youth that seems somehow connected with something although I don’t know what it would be.
Even though my parents were not rich by any means, I had a membership to the local YMCA.
The school I went to, Grant Elementary, went from K through 8 and was located in between some old neighborhoods, some new subdivisions and some rather rough poor sections of town. So, there were rich and poor kids at Grant; black, Hispanic and white kids.
I remember Raymond Lincoln. He was a teddy bear kind of guy who just happened to be colored (the word we used in those days). As I remember he wasn’t a real smart guy but was a lot of fun to be around, at school that is. After school was a different story.
As my memory serves, Raymond followed me home one day. I lived within a couple of blocks of school and I know I had it a lot better than him. We must have been in sixth grade, maybe seventh. I even remember him having dinner with us at one point.
Well on that particular day that he followed me home, I must have mentioned the YMCA and swimming and that maybe he could come with me one time. I also remember thinking better of it and trying to get out of my commitment. The scene I recall is my mother on the front porch of our little starter house, me toward the side of the driveway and Raymond in the front yard by the big tree.
And my mother was making me keep my word and had me set a time (Saturday morning) when Raymond would come with me to the Y.
Scan forward to Saturday, at the Y, which is 99.9% white kids, and me standing in line to get in with a very black Raymond Lincoln. He was so excited and was bouncing around. I was slightly embarrassed by all the attention I thought I was getting because of him and was not really aware at the time of all the other socially significant things that were going on around me. That would come many years later.
All I was concerned with at the time was just making it through the morning and what I thought everyone else thought. I guess kids are like that. No excuses, just a fact of life in the 60’s.
Anyway, we were soon let in to the locker room and on to the pool where it was “free swim” time.
A picture I will never forget (getting over my self-consciousness) is Raymond jumping off the board and splashing into the pool and having more fun than anyone else around. It was truly one of those days, had I been older and wiser, that I would have enjoyed and even taken a part in besides being a spectator of my own life.
Things are fuzzy after that. Raymond was still around but I don’t remember him coming to the YMCA again. I know that my membership would be mostly off after that time as the monetary cost was a little high.
I often wonder what happened to Raymond.
Sometimes I even wonder what happened to me, but that’s another story, for another day.