Well I suppose now would be a good enough time than any to give a bunch of random details. First off my mother is a high school teacher for the Detroit Public Schools district. However I must say I did not grow up in Detroit, Michigan. I grew up in Southfield, which is a very close suburb. As a matter of fact my house was about a half mile from the city limits.
This is a good time to explain something for those of you who do not live in Michigan. Detroit has always had a peculiar relationship with its suburbs. In many ways the Detroit metropolitan area is one large divided city. One large divided city with racial, economic, political and social prejudices that run generations deep, on all sides. Those prejudices mattered less and more for because of my parents occupations and because several of my extended family members were from Detroit. When my cousins would introduce me to their friends the first thing they would tell them after my name was that I was from the suburbs, as if any and all peculiarities I possessed could be explained by that simple fact.
As I write my mother is preparing her retirement papers. My dad works in a factory for Faygo Beverages. He too is preparing to retire. Both of them are Black, which of course makes me black.
I say this now for a simple reason. This is my story. It may not be entirely true but it is close enough to it. I don’t want to embellish it to stick to the story that people like to hear about black people. I am not a man who worked his way up from poverty and do not wish to present myself as such. Nor do I like to believe that my life was wholly without conflict. My life as, the of every human being, is a complex tale. I may simplify it on occasion because I can’t remember details or am to lazy to call the parties who were involved who my but I will not simplify it for the sake of sticking to the bullshit story America likes to reduce African Americans to. . A personal grievance of mine is the lack of diversity of African Americans in the media. Its not we are invisible, and its not that we are portrayed horribly. It is that we are all either saints or sinners and are seldom in between.
I suppose its one of the reasons why I am writing this. I never see my story. I am a flawed human being and my personal history is flawed as well. For starters, I never understood my father. That’s not to say I hate him, or even dislike him, but we never seem to agree, or get along for very long. I am not a criminal, or even particularly dishonest, but I am very lazy and that can lead to its own set of problems, most of which are self induced I’ll admit. I suppose the real problem I want to point out is the lack diverse personalities. When ever writers need a black character they tend to go to a list of stock characters, most of which are nothing like myself, and I feel that as a teenager that somewhat affected my racial identity. So here I am telling my story.
I am and as far back as I can remember was a nerd. Being a nerd changes from generation to generation. When I say I am a nerd keep in mind that I grew up in the 1990s. I never understood the logic of a pocket protector. If a ball point pen leaks it’s probably a bad pen. On top of that bic which for some reason cornered the market sold most of its ballpoints with tops or the points go into the pen. I suppose it started out because as a child I flew the straight and narrow. I realized at an early age that as long as I kept my nose clean, stayed out of trouble and got decent grades, my parents would give me more or less anything what I wanted.
Throughout elementary school the kids at Brace Lederly elementary would receive four report cards. If I got all As and Bs I would get pizza and the opportunity to rent 3 videos from the local video store, Legends. I don’t know why but I almost always chose Problem Child. Actually I do know why that is a very funny movie. I still have a love for physical comedy and sardonic humor.
I also tended to do what my parents said without question for a long time. Yes wearing khakis and polo shirts in elementary school will get you picked on. Thank God by high school my style had changed to plaid and jeans, which in all honesty still got me picked on.
When I was in the fifth grade I negotiated a formula for determining how much allowance I got. My folks would take the level of my education and multiply it by the grade level I was in. For example when it started I got 5 dollars a week, because five for the fifth grade multiplied by one for elementary school is five. In the six grade I got 12 dollars. I think my parents agreed to it because at the time I was getting a 5 dollar allowance anyway. In elementary school it mostly went to Fridays. You see there was a corner store about 3 blocks from my house. On Friday I would ride my bike down to it and buy one slice of pizza one 20 ounce Sprite and one Kit Kat bar.
Fridays were good for a several reasons. The first is that it was the first day of the weekend. Even now I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I would get homework but I wouldn’t worry about it until Sunday evening. So Friday nights and afternoons were mine. Second was ABC’s TGIF Friday. You see Dad’s shift was is in the evenings and mom was busy checking papers. So that meant that I got to watch the big TV in the living room. The show that got me interested in TGIF was Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I loved that show.
As I said before, my father worked evenings and my Mother was a teacher. This meant there was a bit of a gap between when someone would be home and when I would be dismissed from school. I was a latchkey kid. There were two periods of real social interaction in my day, recess, and latchkey. The odd thing about school is that most of the people I knew throughout my schooling days followed me from school from school but , a few off my earliest friends did not. Akisha was one of my closest friends in elementary school. We always played together at recess but in the third grade she moved away. I never saw her again. Then there was Michelle. Another friend I didn’t see much of after elementary school.
The way the end of the day would work for a latch key kid is interesting. About 15 minutes from 3:30 teachers would allow the kids to get their backpacks, coats, boots and such. Boots must have been a nightmare for my teacher. It snows a lot in Michigan and I imagine getting 25 kids to switch out of rebooks into boots takes a bit of time and patience. Kids fell into four categories. There were the latchkey kids like myself We always were the last to leave. Then there were the busers, you know the kids who took the bus home. Then there were kids who lived close enough to the school to walk home. By the 5th grade I would be in this category. The school was only two and a half blocks from my house. As a point of fact, in the summers and weekends my mom would always walk me to the playground, and let me swing on the swings. Also a tradition for the early part of my life was that Mom would walk me to school on the first day of classes. After the busses there were the kids who got picked up.
Now the school made parents fill out a form telling the school what category their kids were in. If you were being picked up the school had to know exactly who was picking you up, and if you were walking home you had to have a special permission slip. Immediately after the bell the kids would be escorted by the teachers to the outside to where the busses were. All class rooms of the same grade were in the same area so all the teachers would lead them to one teacher who would be designated the bus escort for that grade. That teacher was responsible for making sure everyone made it from the class to the bus. After the students made it to the bus escorts the teachers would return to the room and wait for parents, and older siblings to pick up the kids. When everyone was gone but the latchkey kids we were escorted to the latchkey room.
My elementary school was K-5. I think in the third grade they started allowing preschool kids into a part of it but I generally avoided that area. The school was divided by the upper and lower wings. They called them that because the school gave the students the distinction of being upper or lower.K-3 was lower and grades four and five were upper. For most of the classes students would stay in the same room with one teacher but there were a few exceptions. There were electives such as music, gym and library. Also older students would switch classes for reading and math. Keep in mind when I say older I mean ten and eleven-year olds.
After we got to latchkey we were given snacks. The school provided some my, b but mom would pack a little extra in my lunch so I could save it for latchkey. They would also take attendance.
After all of that if the weather was nice we would head out to the playground. In the second grade they tore down one of the metal play structures and put up a plastic one. It was made to look like it was made out of wood but yes it was plastic. I use to spend most of my time on the swing. The thing about it was that it was rare that I had someone around to push, so I could only go so high and it was a while before I figured out how to pump my legs. Everybody would want to swing on the swings so eventually I had to get off. Then I would head on over the monkey bars. I've always had a fear of heights so I never made it the full way across. Most times I would climb up to them spend awhile looking go across two bars and then go back.
When the new structure was built there was this kind of hand swingy pulley thing. You would grab on the a handle press off a platform with your feet and glide across. I as usual was afraid. One time there was a line behind me but I was too scared to go. Somebody pushed me across and I fell. My leg hurt for a week after.
If the weather wasn’t so nice the kids were given three choices. We could either stay in the latchkey room, go to the gym, or go to the computer lab. Most everyone including myself chose the gym.