Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Hi, My Name is Crystal"

I was five years old attending nursery school in 1965 along with Ross, my four-year-old brother. Except for the few hours a day I went to kindergarten down the street, Ross and I spent the majority of our weekdays at nursery school. Our parents divorced earlier in the year and our mother worked full time.
Being a year older than Ross, a chain link fence dividing the play yards of nursery school separated our age groups. In order to be together, we would stretch our fingers through the holes in the fencing. At nursery school, I wanted to be with no one else.
One day Ross’ class was called in from recess. I turned away from the fence and noticed sitting alone in the sandbox the most beautiful little black girl ever. I was taken with the brightly colored beads covering her braided hair. I walked over to the sandbox watching as she built sandcastles. “I’m Debbie,” I announced. Without looking up she replied, “Hi, my name is Crystal.” I sat down in the sandbox next to Crystal and we began creating a strongly bound friendship.
One night after school my mother was preparing dinner. I casually walked up to her and asked, “Mama, wha’ chall fixin’ for dinna?” She looked at me curiously and asked, “Honey, do you have a new friend at school?” I replied, “Yes, Mama, her name is Crystal.”
As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, Crystal and I became inseparable. I was left-handed and she right handed. We sat in the sandbox, with Crystal always on my right. This way we could hold hands and still have our dominant hand free for other purposes, such as eating sand. I marveled at how incredible our fingers looked woven together, her brown with my white.
As we continued bonding, I introduced Crystal to the joys of eating Elmer’s Glue. I showed her how the application stick and lid were one unit. Twisting off the lid and scooping up some thick glue onto the stick, I enjoyed a mouthful of this tasty treat. Crystal followed suit, scooped up some glue onto the stick and she, too, delighted in all Elmer’s Glue offered.
Kindergarten began at 9:00 a.m. Supervisors walked our group several blocks from nursery school to the grade school. Crystal and I would protect one another from the bigger kids. One day, someone across the street threw a rock at us. It hit me in the head, causing me to bleed and cry. Crystal saw the boy who threw the rock, pointing him out to one of our supervisors.
Another day when we were walking back from kindergarten, I noticed someone deliberately set a cherry bomb on the sidewalk in front of us. Fortunately I saw it, alerted Crystal and kicked it off the sidewalk. With Crystal always on my right, hand in hand, we walked to and from school.
One particular sunny afternoon, our group was walking back to nursery school. Crystal and I managed to dillydally behind the others and our supervisors. Suddenly, I looked up seeing an older black boy’s head peeking around a fence corner. I quickly recognized the tip of a gun. Our eyes locked; he immediately pulled himself back behind the fence.
I glanced at Crystal, seeing her eyes grow wide as saucers. Crystal placed her arms rigidly by her sides and opened her mouth preparing to scream. I put my hand over her mouth, dragging her back to our kindergarten classroom. I told our teacher what happened and she instantly notified the police.
Two police cars arrived 10 minutes later. In one car they took Crystal back to nursery school; in the other car they took me to the “scene of the crime.”  The Caucasian police officer held my hand while we walked to the back door of a poorly constructed trailer home. Sitting on the officer’s lap, I was encouraged to tell an all black family what the boy with the gun was wearing. I could barely speak.
As I finished describing his clothing, the strongest voice sitting next to me yelled, “Rodney, get yourself out here this minute!” Moments later, I was face to face with a 16-year-old young man wearing the same attire I described. After I identified Rodney, the officer carried me to his police car and then drove me back to nursery school. There, I was reunited with Crystal.
Unfortunately, I do not remember my last time with Crystal. Did I move away? Did she? How long were we together? My sense is my mother, brother and I moved again. Crystal and I were not given an opportunity to say good-bye.
I wonder about my special friend, envisioning seeing her again. I long for the opportunity to thank her for showing my blue eyes the beauty in her brown eyes and the mutual warmth in the different colors of our skin. Because of our compassionate and caring relationship, despite the differences in our physical appearance, I know we are one in the same people. Crystal, where are you? Are you still alive?
Several decades passed since 1965, when Crystal and I last shared a handful of sand and a stick of Elmer’s Glue. At age five, we taught each other everything we needed to know about life. The lessons learned during the course of our short yet meaningful relationship serve as the foundation for my philosophy of life; my acceptance and respect for the diversity in the human race. To this day in my mind, heart and soul, Crystal and I continue building the sand castles of life.

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