This week has been HEAVY, yes? I have felt weighed down.
Last night, regardless of the 90+ degree heat, I decided to make some banana bread. We had three, big rotting bananas and I am trying not to waste food, so I borrowed a cup of sugar from my lovely neighbor Jess and turned the oven on to 350 degrees and got to work. I knew it would be worth it when I woke up this morning and had some breakfast waiting for me and the kids.
Every time I make banana bread Adam and I recall with fondness the story of how three Black teenage kids literally called us to our window one fall day when I was baking. I felt a happy little story about race relations would help lighten my mood today. Here it goes:
We live in a neighborhood that is not racially diverse. There are those who claim it is, but come on, folks–that’s just crazy talk. However, we live behind the YMCA where a lot of kids play basketball at night and we live next door to a community center. This community center gets rented out every Friday and Saturday night for all sorts of parties: quinceaneras, small weddings of mostly Latino couples (but other races, too), big baby showers of Black and Latino families, every so often a low budget bar mitzvah…The list goes on. We have lived on this block since February of 2002 and have seen it all. Many nights our kids’ bedroom literally vibrates from the bass of throbbing music, we dance in the kitchen to a DJ, or I’ll sit at my desk working and bopping my head to the “Cha Cha Slide.”
With this in mind, our street in our White neighborhood hosts many people of color and I like that. I like seeing any people in celebration mode and hearing all the different music. Sometimes the kids and I will sit on the stoop and wait for a bride or a 15 year old beauty to arrive in the limo or family car and watch her emerge in her dress, or we peek in the windows to see how they transformed the blah space into something pretty, or we just say “Hello” or “Congratulations” to the people having the party.
But other than the community center events, most of my neighborhood looks just like me. Not all, but most.
One fall night years ago I was making banana bread. It was in the oven, and I was sitting on the couch reading. At this time we lived in the parlor floor apartment next door, therefore we could hear everyone on the street but we were just above street level. Three teenage boys walked down the street, stopped in front of our window, and said, “Man, what is that? It smells goooooooood!” They stood in front of our building for a few minutes, literally sniffing the air, and then one kid said, “That’s banana bread.”
I was so impressed with his olfactory detective work that I stood up and looked out the window. It was dusk. I saw three tall, skinny Black teenage boys.
“You’re right!” I yelled out my window. They looked up, startled by my voice. “Do you like banana bread?” I asked them.
A chorus of yeses came back at me.
“It’ll be done in about half hour. If you’re still around, holler at the window and I’ll give you some,” I joked, positive that they would not come back.
They laughed, said thanks (someone raised those boys well), and walked down the street.
About an hour later we heard, “BANANA BREAD! BANANA BREAD!” being yelled at our window from the sidewalk.
Of course they didn’t know my name, so they just shouted what I had offered them. I cracked up. I told them I’d be right down.
I cut three big pieces of banana bread onto three paper towels and brought it outside.
“It has chocolate chips in it–hope that’s okay,” I said. They nodded in anticipation. “Any of you have food allergies? I don’t want you to fall over and your mamas to come back here and try to sue me for giving you this bread,” I joked. They assured me they were allergy free. They ate that banana bread like voracious little wolves, the way teenage boys eat everything, and thanked me as they walked away. “Throw your paper towels in the trash!” I yelled after them. “Yes, ma’am,” one replied, which just tickled the Southerner in me.
I think about little transactions like that a lot. I have been told many times by many folks that I over-analyze everything, especially when it comes to race, but I like to think that those little things are, indeed, big.