Sunday, November 18, 2012


One recent, rainy morning, our before-school routine was not going well.  Everyone was moving slowly despite my best efforts.  Sure enough, the school bus came and went.  So I herded my boys into the car and set off through the rain-soaked streets of suburbia.
     As we approached the elementary school, I groaned at the sight of the extensive line of cars waiting to deposit children on the school's doorstep.  I maneuvered the car into the line and dropped my head back against the headrest with a sigh.  My 6-year-old pulled out a large plastic card and started reading it aloud.  Apparently, it contained pictures and descriptions of notable African-Americans in U.S. history.  As we inched toward the school drop-off zone, he peppered me with questions.

"Mom, what's a playwright?"

"What's this? E-n-t-r-e-p-r-e-n-e-u-r."

"How do you say this name? M-u-h-a-m-m-e-d.  He is a boxer."

Not all of them were easily answered, though.  As we inched forward through the rain:

"Harriet Tubman drove a train?  That's why she's famous???" Well...

"Mom, what's a Black Nationalist?"  Oh, boy.

Then came the kicker.  It was early, it was raining, and I still wasn't fully awake.  Until now.

"Mom?  Why did they put Rosa Parks in jail for doing something right?"

We had turned the corner and were nearly at the drop-off zone.  I figured I had about 90 seconds, tops, to explain nonviolent resistance to my 6-year-old.  I don't remember exactly what I said, but whatever it was seemed to sit well with my little historian.  As he scrambled out of the car, I realized that in my haste, I had single-handedly given Rosa Parks full credit for the entire civil rights movement.  Ah, well.  There will be time to remedy that later.  But my little guy had the last word.  With one hand on the open car door, he paused and turned to look at me in earnest.

"Well, I would like to thank her."

And he stomped off through the rain, past an African-American teacher who gave him a big smile and a wave.