One afternoon in Chicago



 

 

This is a favorite story for me. It speaks to innocence of children and how we might have been a little bit nicer as children than as adults. And maybe it fits the holiday mood.

I lived my first six years in Chicago. Chicago in the 1940s had the big red streetcars that roamed the streets of the city and took you most places you might want to go. It was an easy city to get around in, and—minus the streetcars—it still is.

One afternoon when I was about five or six, my mom packed up my sister and me and we headed out on the streetcars for a visit to a friend of hers. She didn’t have children and we were a little bored, so we asked if we could go outside and play at a playground next to the apartment building. Mom asked if it was safe for us, and her friend said it was, so we went down to the playground and were playing with the other kids, several of whom happened to be African-American. There were a few boys and some girls, and they were friendly and as curious about us as we were about them. We were all about the same age. They later invited us to see the new family car. The family was what we today might call “working poor,” but nice people and they treated us like the friends we had become. The “new” family car was an old sedan, probably from the 1920s, that had been brush painted light blue. Looking back, it wasn’t all that much to look at, but those children were proud of it, and I thought it was beautiful as well. Why not? My parents didn’t have a car. We rode around on streetcars!

Those children were friendly to us and we were friendly as well. I hope they were as impressed with us as we were with them. I didn’t see them as black and maybe they never saw us as white. We were just kids having fun together.

Children can be innocent and trusting and loving and I wish as adults we could keep more of that. Sadly, my sister and I never saw those children again, but I hope they remember us as well as I remember them.

WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.

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