old memories of bicycle princes

good memories are treasures. sometimes we have to dig a little deeper for them. someone sent me a long list of ‘remember whens’ yesterday and in conversation with a friend, the following story/memory arrived.

i was about oh, three or four maybe… and we lived in a neighborhood where just over the next intersection ‘the black part of town’ started. my mom, pregnant with my half-sister, sent me out to play. a little boy on a bicycle rode up. he said he was going to teddy bear (local burger joint). i was amazed because he wasn’t that much older than me, but his mom let him go all the way to the teddy bear…. (a block away from me, and obviously, more for him).

he was so polite. he treated me like a princess. he actually bowed to me. and asked me if i would like to go, too. well of course! he left me ride his bike. i’d never even been on a bike before. it was wobbly, but he said it was ok, because he would hold it for me so i didn’t fall.

a perfect little gentleman. and he did hold that bike. very, very carefully. all the way down the block. all the way to teddy bear. and we walked in and walked right up to the counter and made out order just like grown ups do. and the lady behind the counter, she treated us like royalty, too.

my little gentleman paid, since i didn’t have any money. we split the single hamburger and had smeared ketchup and mustard delight right there in teddy bear parking lot. we talked about school. we talked about our parents. we talked about what we wanted to be when we grew up. it was probably oh… 1968 or ’69.

we both walked back. he pushed the bike. we turned into the dirt road driveway leading to the house. he said he’d let me go the rest of the way. hah. as if. i insisted he come meet my momma. i was pretty sure there were cookies to be had in it.

what little boy could resist a cookie?

so we walked to the house. though i noticed he was kind of nervous. i ran up the stairs, ‘momma… look who i….’

my mother, having come to the door, reached out and snatched me inside by my shoulder…. slamming the door behind me, voice low and harsh and angry, ‘what are you doing out there with that nigger?’

i never did see that little boy again. but to this day i remember my gentleman prince… slow, careful, mindful footman to his princess, escorting a stranger-not-stranger to the exotic land of ‘we can, too’ and ketchup and mustard smears around smiles.

i wonder if he remembers. i like to think so. and maybe… just maybe… he remembers more than what happened when i got home.

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