So today is what a friend would call the Patrick Ewing Day. He looks at our ages and birthdays in terms of favorable jersey numbers (as Knicks fans, we didn’t call 31 “Reggie Miller Day” for damn good reason. I referred to the pitching GAWD, Greg Maddux, instead.)
Since this space has been empty since the loss of a friend last month, and the weight of a negative world seems to be a bit much, I wanted to start this day with something that reminds me that even in hellacious times, there’s still joy somewhere and for someone. This subway story, which took place in April, had been sitting here, begging to be finished despite its brevity.
Happy birthday to me, right?
A partially filled C train comes into the 145th Street station, and the most wonderful sight I’ve seen in a long time took place.
A young black mother and her son were towards the back of the car, in their own space. For the two stops they were on – and certainly a few long before – they danced.
Not the “It’s Showtime” subway dancing that opens tourists’ wallets, but annoys the natives, but the “this is my JAM!” kind of dancing.
The boy would go on his own, crossing his feet, waving his hands and styling as if he wasn’t worried about the bookbag being a hindrance to his get-down. The mother would rock with him as well, as it was her phone playing whichever Beyonce song I couldn’t recognize.
And here I was reading a serious tome about race, 1963 and Martin Luther King Jr; going nose deep into the social trials and tribulations of those before me, but unable to fully absorb the pain of yesteryear. And today.
I wanted to learn of what continued to motivate freedom fighters in those days where the system wielded its hoses and batons, I wanted to see what my parents must have seen in live on television and up close in the not-so-harmonious Northeast of the 1960s. I wanted to look for the missing ingredients to the current movements or have a greater appreciation for our advances, but… shit.
That kid is so happy. The bookbag might be heavier than he is, but it must have floated like a feather while he was in motion.
That mother hasn’t given a damn since at least 168th Street. She doesn’t turn on her inner obnoxious Dance Mom. She doesn’t break her stride nor his.
It probably didn’t hit me right away; this contrast of historic weariness and instant jubilation. Yet, when it did, I coyly smiled while trying to focus on Bull Connor’s men. On Dr. King’s vision. On generations of the -isms. On the last few months of tumult.
Yet, that mother and child were so carefree. They weren’t hampered by reality, but danced in defiance of it. It was beautiful. It was innocent, spontaneous, pure… and needed.
I smiled once more before getting off at 96th Street. For all I know, they might have danced to the end of the line.
This should have went viral. Or maybe not. Some moments are meant for a small audience.