Yesterday, I had the most extraordinary, ordinary day.
As was custom, I set out early for a Saturday morning walk, despite the fact my husband, my usual walking partner, was out of town. I typically have a destination in mind, though the sky was still dark, I kept to the main streets. As I strolled downtown, the first blush of dawn hit me square when I gazed down 13th Street, Old St. Mary’s clock tower was rising with the sun. I turned eastward.
My walk took me down to the river, and I ran into a young couple that had just secured their fireworks viewing spot with blue tarp and duct tape along Serpentine Wall. We chatted about living in the city, as we gazed down from the Purple People Bridge at the rainbow of seat saving blankets. They were from the west side, and, as was always the case, curious to know what prompted my move, how was I adjusting, did I feel safe and where were the bike lanes. I kind of chuckled to myself as we separated. They were all valid questions that would be answered as I progressed through my day.
I left them and continued with my mammoth hike, tracking down the origination of the crew rowers often spotted in Newport on the Licking River. I discovered an actual a boathouse, where high school and college teams came together to learn and practice the sport. I trekked into Covington, over the Roebling and crossed back into Cincinnati, feet beginning to ache.
Climbing up Central, I spotted a spy African-American woman carrying a yoga mat on her back, crossing the street.
“Going to yoga today?” I asked, in my usual friendly good morning sort of voice.
“Sure am, there’s some free yoga in a park in Convington,” she responded.
We passed each other by but then I heard her call for me.
“Hey,” she shouted, from across the street. “Hey, you know there’s free stuff at Washington Park?”
I smiled. Of course, I knew.
She began walking back my direction, then alongside of me, telling me all about the free workouts in Washington Park. And abruptly, she chose to head there, and join her sister in Kentucky later.
There was a natural flow to our conversation about cigarettes, heroin, workouts and her aunt, who still drove to church. Finally, she stopped to look at me. “How old are you?”
“Almost fifty,” I said proudly for once.
“No way, you kidding me? I put you at 29-30 at the most.”
“Well how old are you?”
“55, but you got it.”
We laughed as we jaywalked together. I told her my family thinks I’ll get run over one of these days. Our conversations carried us all the way to the park. When we arrived, she learned no workout was happening that day.
“Oh well,” she said, “Guess I’ll just walk back to Kentucky.”
Then somehow, the information came out that she used to care for the children of the owner’s of Otto’s.
“Wait a minute,” I said to her, “we met last week. You were walking by Music Hall, on your way to church, you know the Metropolitan Baptist one for sale.”
“Yes,” she cried out, “That was me. I can’t believe you remembered me.” She was in near tears.
Time was slipping away, so we exchanged hugs as if we had known each other all our lives.
“My name is Harriet, but my nickname is,” and here she made a cookie cut out sign, sign language for cookie. “Children can remember my name that way.”
Who doesn’t love a woman named Cookie? “Cookie, happy to run into you today.”
“You too, let’s meet up again.” We traded glances like we meant it.
My day went on like this. Feet too tired to move, I went to hang on the corner for some time with Earl, by myself. No husband, dog, none of the usual other talkers hanging around. Just chatting about collard greens, while I showed him some pictures from my walks about town.
In the afternoon, on my way to Rhinegeist to meet friends for beers and pizza, I ran into Pastor Henry, quite the charmer, who is always soliciting money for his gospel music mission. A young African-American, he is the most bright personality. If I didn’t know he was always out soliciting, I would give him money every time.
“Oh Miss Annette, so happy to see you.”
“Henry, I haven’t seen you the past few days.”
“Oh I’ve been around, working down the Reds, then here. I was waiting for the Boosty Collins concert the other night.”
“I know, me too. I was serving beers and feeling like I had the best of both worlds, serving beer and listening to Bootsy.”
We both sighed, saddened the concert had been cancelled due to weather. We too swapped hugs and he went back to work.
Later, as I was walking home, I encountered my favorite family, one we worked with at Prince of Peace Lutheran, tutoring four children. Actually, only the father and three sons were present.
“What’s going on tonight?” I asked.
“Just got done at the barber shop.”
“Well, lookin’ good guys.”
I checked out the hairstyle of the oldest, recalling the last time I saw him, he had some twisted hair thing going on. “Hey Bronson, are you gonna twist your hair back?”
“Oh yeah, it’ll only take me ten minutes.”
“Hey, maybe you can teach Mark how to do that with his hair?”
The kids just rolled their eyes. The youngest one, who Mark always works with, gave me a squeeze during most of the length of our conversation.
I had so many encounters like those yesterday. But those exchanges stood out because they were so ordinary. In many of my former lives, I could have lived whole days or weeks without encountering a person from another race.
Nowadays, I found myself surprised. Surprised that I was not surprised that the extent of my spontaneous social life, other than those beers and pizza, had extended to those outside my own race.
I don’t have an answer for the question, What color is the human race?, but I know it is rich and deep and occurs naturally when we allow for it.