Yesterday I woke up with a weary futility about the outcome of the day. It started with a memory of being 3 or 4 and getting swooped up off the platform outside of the building I lived in during the first five years of my life – a building in Roxbury’s Orchard Park Projects.
My uncle did the swooping. He held me like a football as he charged up the stairs and inside the building. It was a rough ride up the two flights of stairs to our apartment. I remember my tiny foot getting caught on a spike on the banister and screaming, “I want my mommy.” But she was working, and I was left in my uncle’s care.
He brought me into our apartment and quickly sat me on the couch. “Wanna watch some TV, Buff?” He asked, pacing the floor of our living room. He nicknamed me Buff, for a reason I won’t say here. Holding my foot, I winced and said, “Yes.” He smiled at me and looked out the window. “Everything’s gonna be alright,” he said. He was right.
Then he turned on the TV and raised the volume really loud. Beneath the music of Tom & Jerry, I could hear the faint cry of sirens and every now and then, the explosive sound of shattering glass. Years later, I discovered that my uncle and my other babysitters (all in their early twenties then) had been among the trouble-makers, throwing Molotov cocktails off roof of our building during the 1970s race riots in Boston.
I was weary, thinking the same thing — or worse — was going to happen again. But thanks to the courage of 40,000 strong, and the misguided notion that a free speech rally could succeed in this day and age in Boston, by the end of the day I was relieved.