After listening to Lydia Marks Struble sing “Blue Bayou” (ahhh) all the way to “It’s a Wonderful World” at the National Night Out concert, I got in my car, parked near Front Street, and drove south on Wallace.
Now, most would’ve taken Front Street home, but this girl had an agenda.
She needed to make a stop at 5th.
The lump of a thousand years rose in my throat as the Stop sign came into view through the now-heavy canopy of maples. First glance was one of relief; the hewn cement blocks comprising its entire structure were no longer the “speak-easy” red in which they’d been suffocated since the sale of 2005; somebody had restored them to their un-assuming grey. A standard Pepsi dispensing machine, however, stood outside and, a good-sized African-American woman sat beside it on a lawn chair.
On impulse, I turned the corner and stopped the car.
Most white people think black people are unapproachable. But, it’s the black folks you can actually talk to, for heaven’s sake. Nobody’s a stranger to them. A lifetime of knowing this motivated me forward; smiling at the woman, I walked up to her.
Introducing myself, I began to tell her about the building she newly called home – Tony’s Barber Shop for nearly 45 years. As I continued, her daughters slowly came to the door, sweet and quiet, like lovely cats do who appear with silent interest. Mom, Shirley, I think, and youngest daughter Shaquona, who attended McKinley, and older sister Felicia, who’d attended “just about every school in town” and who introduced a younger brother and a father, I presumed, whose face I never actually saw….they listened with respectful attention as I prattled on about the old shop picture windows and the Tv and the barber pole and Peterman’s Market across the street and how old Dad was when he died and how much I loved him, because the tears were already rolling and why should they stop.
I made my visit brief, telling them how glad I was to have met them and how nice it was that they were living there, how thankful I was and how much Dad would think so, too. Getting in the car, I looked back once more, laughing through and apologizing for the tears, and they smiled with acceptance. “That’s okay!” Shirley called out. The two men bending into the car window at the corner may or may not have been connected to their family, but none of us paid them any mind.
Sitting in the driver’s seat for a bit, letting the cry come all the way out, and then coasting west on 5th, I told Dad how much I missed him for the umpteenth time in three years of months. This short distance, from the curb of the corner of 5th & Wallace to Parade, and then left, I’d traveled a thousand times……but always from the back seat of Dad’s old De Soto. This was only the second time I’d driven it alone, and the first time since his departure. The neighborhood reached for me, from all directions, and I wanted to take it home.
“Car comin’, Daddy.”
© Ruth A.Scanzillo
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