My Turn: Not just a graduation party

  • mactrunk

Published: 6/15/2021 5:04:11 PM

“I want you to see something,” you say, taking my hand, both our hands moist from the heat, to guide us up a hill to a rise. From the rise, we have a view of what is below. What you see — what we both see — is a party.

It’s an ordinary party, a high school graduation party. But not just an ordinary party — not just a graduation party, also a reunion. It’s a family’s return from the isolation imposed by COVID. An extended family with entwined roots. Roots that embrace the Latino, Jewish, Black and New England white relations.

“It’s been the longest year of my life,” Tia Lucy says.

But now it’s party time again — outdoors, masks off, full hugs allowed.

We reached the rise and stop. I am breathless, you are not. But what we view from the rise is the same — we view a living tapestry. A tapestry of young and old. A tapestry of various activities: a group of young people play basketball on a small shaded court.

Abuelo Freddie hoists a pinata on his ropes and pulleys as blindfolded participants swat wildly at a COVID-shaped ball full of candy treats. Circles of aunties and uncles, cousins and friends are catching up under the cool shade of the maple trees.

We see Hector, in his wheelchair, surrounded by his offspring, and take turns bringing him a plate of food, too much food and in receipt a kiss for each cheek.

And a few, in flowing sundresses are already moving to a Latino beat with swaying hips and rhythmic feet.

Above, looking down, you can feel the hugs. Because it is a graduation party and it is a reunion party and we are all here together.

But there is another reason, you have urged me up to the rise. There was an incident. An incident that you witnessed.

A policeman had been called by neighbors down the road to complain that a few cars were parked on or near their land. The neighbor had further complained about the party-goers, insinuating that they did not belong, insinuating they posed a threat. The cop talking to you was apologetic. He grasped the implications. The last year was raw to him; you understood. You came from a rural white town. You knew that now you saw this world and this party with a different eye.

The word about the parking was passed. The three offending cars were quickly moved and a crew cheerfully re-configured all the cars. It caused barely a ripple in the merriment. The micro-aggression was acknowledged and all moved on. And as the policeman told you, “Sure, like seeing a party,” as he pulled away.

But you have a further point to make. “Do you see?” you ask, still with your razor focus on the gathering below us. Because what you see is America. What you see is a rainbow reality. What you see is a composition of skin colors that go from darkest browns to our own pinkish-whiteness.

What you see Is inclusion and a sea of beaming faces as someone’s great granddaughter makes her shy way to the microphone, prodded by her mother and grandmother, to add her own two cents: “Family love,” she finally speaks.

You see the gift of a convergence of generations, geographies and backgrounds. Then once again, your gaze returns to the basketball players young and brown and what you know is that you too want to play. And so you do. You take your older, whiter-self down the hill, and make a bee-line over to the basketball game. And next thing, you are playing full-bore, two-on-two, you and Uncle Marcus’ teenage grandson, sweating and leaning into the game.

Afterwards? Well, what happens at a party stays at a party, right?

You, see. If, only, we all would someday see: the great potential and fun of a nation blessed with this diversity. Our country is now wrenched by divisiveness, but may, like you, someday celebrate its strength as a shared community. And as the local policeman said, “it’s good to see a party.”

Ruth Charney lives in Greenfield.


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