Intersections – Interlude
Editor’s note: Nicki Salcedo is taking the week off after more than a year of writing a column weekly for Decaturish. Her column will resume next week. We’ve picked a few of our favorite columns she’s written over the last year, ones you may have missed. A collection of these columns is featured in her book “Intersections” which you can purchase on Amazon.com.
Years ago, I was on a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco and happened to sit among a trio of men. They wore work boots and still had the dust from a day’s work stuck to their sunburnt faces. I didn’t need to see beneath their collars to know their necks were red. As I buckled in, I began to worry. The man next to me was nervous about flying. All three of them seemed to be inexperienced travelers. I had a book I wanted to read and a crossword puzzle to tackle and five hours trapped in the air with these guys.
The first thing they did was introduce themselves. They were from Shreveport, Louisiana.
“I’m Bubba, that’s Bubba over there, and this is Buddha,” one said to me. Two Bubbas I could understand, but the third had reached full spiritual enlightenment? I’d watched enough of the TV show “Newhart” to wonder if this was a joke. Had they just Larry, Darryl, and Darryled me? They assured me it was the truth.
I could save the city of Decatur time and money. Each year they can ask me, “Is Decatur getting whiter?” and I will say, “Yes.” Signs of the whitening are noticeable. I see them everywhere.
The first sign is a doggy bubble window built into the wooden privacy fences so their dogs and small toddlers peek out into the world behind the safety of plexiglass.
I am contributing to the whitening of Decatur. It’s not because I dance like Carlton and know all the words (grudgingly) to Sweet Home Alabama. It’s because sometimes the people in Decatur need lessons on being white, and I can help them. One of my neighbors has just one dog. The white rule is two dogs or a dog and a baby. If you only have one dog or one kid I don’t know that you are white. White people can have any number of cats. I’m a cat person myself. My cat Greg Maddux equally dislikes everyone regardless of race.
One of the teachers at the elementary school joked that May was mayhem. I didn’t laugh. Too true to be funny. May like mayday. Help me, I’m drowning. Then I remember on the other side of May is a month called June. June, like June Rose. June meaning youth. Like Juno, the protector.
I endured the third grade recorder concert. A recorder is the cross between a flute and a clarinet. It is a cheap wind instrument made by the hands of the devil and given freely to third and fourth grade children to hasten puberty.
We made a rule that playing the recorder in the car is not allowed. I try not to hate the recorder with the passion of a thousand suns. But I do. I have children who play the piano and electric guitar with amp inside my house, so I have no fear of upsetting noises. But the recorder tickles the crazy part of my brain. The recorder is May’s theme song.
Here is a little known fact: Large groups of third graders playing the recorder are the reason winter is coming to Westeros. Strangely enough White Walkers can only be defeated by dragonglass, Valyrian steel, and a third grader with a recorder.
We visited a church in Decatur several times. Each Sunday, we filled out the visitor form and said we’d like a call or visit from the pastor. Each week, no call came. On the final Sunday we attended, an old woman in the church turned to us during the welcome portion of the service. As we shook hands she said, “You know there are a lot of other nice churches in Decatur.”
I was not welcome in their house of worship. I understand. Racism is quietly everywhere. Well, get out your rebel flag. Wave it on Sundays and Saturdays and during Wednesday night Bible study.
Don’t talk to me about South Carolina. Don’t talk to me about guns. Or the Confederate flag. There are other ways racism is perpetuated that are more subtle and dangerous. I’ve seen the red flags.
When my son was about eighteen months old, he got in the one bathroom cabinet that we keep unlocked. I’d removed the Monistat by then and figured it was safe enough for him to pull out the soap and shampoo and toilet paper. Then he got dangerously quiet. When I found him, he was sitting on the floor with twenty-four unwrapped tampons.
My boy peered into the narrow end. He smiled at me with joy in his face and the tampon string dangling before his eye.
“Mommy, I pirate,” he said.
I stepped over him. I thought of 30 years in the future when he’d make a splendid husband, not at all phased by the sanitary products hiding under the bathroom sink.
“No, honey. You gynecologist,” I said.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.