Friday, April 11, 2014
30/30: My Earliest Memory
Today's 30/30 Vision Blog Challenge prompt calls for me write about my earliest memory. Many of my very early memories are of times spent with my mother's parents, Carl and Dorothy Clark. I was born in Asheboro, NC, and they lived only a couple of miles away from us until we moved to Greensboro when I was 4. I spent many days at their house and remember them fondly. I remember they had grapevines and I loved to pick (and eat!) the grapes. I remember their neighbors had older boys who would play with me sometimes. And I remember that Grandma always had Lincoln Logs for me to play with. But my clearest and best early memory is of time spent with my grandfather- at work!
Carl Clark owned and operated an American Oil "service station" on Salisbury Street in Asheboro. It was a busy, popular place where folks bought full-service gas (sometimes on credit without credit cards, just paying monthly). There was a drink machine, an ice cream freezer and a constant gab session with groups of men sitting around and talking about life. The station was memorable to me for a few reasons. First, I got to hand out with my grandpa. Just as importantly, I got to help. Even as a very small child the guys who worked for Grandpa would let me help pump gas and clean windshields, and I thought that was great. But maybe the most influential part of spending time at the station was getting to know the men who worked for my grandfather and becoming friends with them. Their names were Roy and Nuddie, and they were both African-American men. This was the early 1960's in mostly rural NC, and trust me- no one ever used the phrase African-American. "Colored" was the nicest thing you could hope to hear. But to my grandfather, Roy and Nuddie were just employees that he respected and counted on. He encouraged me to talk to them, hang out with them and get to know them. When I was at the station they were often my babysitters. I was young enough not to have any built-in prejudices yet, and I believe it was because of my time spent with them that I never really developed any racial fears or stereotypes. Roy and Nuddie were my friends. Their skin color seemed inconsequential to me. Those days at the station as a 3 and 4 year old were important in making me the man I am today.
I stayed close to my grandfather until he died of complications from Alzheimer's many years ago. My grandmother outlived him by many years, partly because (as I discovered much later in life) she was just too mean to die! But I do have great memories of those early years, and I thank God for the presence of family in my life- then and now. Have a blessed weekend!
Because of Jesus,