laura ferrario

Playing on the Team

laura ferrario
 

We raised our kids in the 60’s when the Vietnam War protests, the push for Women’s Lib and Civil Rights was turning the world upside‑down. It was also the time when fathers were beginning to achieve undreamed of success and the baby boom children were growing up. Our family had become corporate gypsies who moved on the average of every three years as promotions were presented in my husband’s career. Although convinced that each move was a learning experience for our five children, we still looked carefully at school districts before choosing a neighborhood.

Stirred by the rhetoric of the times, we felt a further responsibility to prepare them for the real world. So when it came time for yet another move, we decided that this time we would do our house‑hunting in a community that was known for its excellent schools, its lovely homes, its cultural opportunities and its rapidly shifting racial composition. For us, moving to an integrated community was a first.

Unsure of ourselves, we made friends slowly. In the first few weeks it made little difference because there was work to be done. But finally weary with moving boxes and washing windows, we decided to make a family excursion to the park and watch the Little League play ball. The choice was made especially for ten‑year old Jimmy, the family klutz who’d had the most difficulty in adjusting to our frequent moves. He had found his niche on the baseball diamond but this year’s move had kept him off the playing field, our arrival coming too late for him to try out for the team. But after a hot sweaty day of labor, we could at least go out into the fresh air and watch the game.

Packing five children plus two adults into a car is no easy task. So when Jimmy hollered from the “way‑back” seat in the station wagon that he’d forgotten his precious baseball mitt, we all groaned.

Already out of the driveway, my husband pulled to the curb across the street and we all squeezed over to let Jimmy out. He dashed to our house without bothering to look for oncoming traffic. The screech of brakes was simultaneous with my scream. Jimmy had been narrowly missed by a large brown car that almost took down a small tree as it came to rest on our front lawn.

I was out of the car in an instant, ready to chastise Jimmy who certainly knew better than to cross the street without looking both ways. Adding to my horror was the unknown. What if this event precipitated a racial incident?

But the driver, already next to Jimmy in the middle of the street, signaled me to be quiet. “Let me handle this, Mother,” he said. Then putting his arm around my son, he bent his head and talked quietly to Jimmy about his narrow escape, and the fact that such carelessness might have caused a perfectly innocent man to carry a disaster on his conscience for the rest of his life.

Traffic backed up, but no one seemed to mind. The setting told the story, with human values incorporated on a person to person level. The community, which was not only multi‑racial but representational of ethnic and religious diversity, had decided that integration included us all. Jimmy’s eyes never left the face of the man who spoke to him so earnestly. I was also beginning to see more clearly.

When finished, the man eased his way off our lawn with dignified apology and we continued to the park to watch the Little League game.

The following summer Jimmy made the team and helped take them to their division championship. The children were of many races but none of us can remember exactly which. We had stopped looking. Later, I joined the PTA, a bowling league and participated in community pot luck suppers that welcomed my husband and me into homes where I never would have gone otherwise. I made friends and learned about people in a way I never thought possible.

It didn’t take me long to realize that by accommodating everyone, the community had made room for corporate gypsies. It was our first step toward real brotherhood.

Two years later we moved again, once more broadening our horizons. But this time the teamwork wasn’t just a game of baseball.

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