Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

Gumballs

Growing up, I felt like I had the best of both worlds. When I hung out with Dad, we were in the car. Dad did the grocery shopping on weekends and we always headed to Western Ave. and parts beyond. Dad rarely went east of our neighborhood to shop.

When I was with my mother, we were always on the bus because she didn’t drive. That, too, was an adventure. Sometimes we caught the bus to the train and went downtown. Most times we went to Roseland, the neighborhood directly east of our Maple Park. Michigan Avenue in Roseland between 111th and 115th streets was as bustling as north Michigan in those days. There were so many thriving businesses and that 4-block stretch was always crowded. There were also 2 or 3 grocery stores in the area, unlike the food desert that exists today. Roseland, also in those days, was pretty much all white.

One day my mother and I were in National Tea, one of the grocery stores. She gave me a few pennies for the gum machines. I scurried off to buy a few colorful gumballs while she waited in line. As I stood in indecision, a white woman walked up behind me with a little girl in tow.

“Move. So she can get some gum.”  images

I deferred to this rude and nasty woman. I ran to find my mother to tell her what happened. The Mama Grizzly Bear rose up in her. “Where is she??!!” But of course, the woman and the little girl were gone.

I think about that incident and I wonder if that woman recalls it. What does she think about herself, bullying a little 4- or 5-year old black girl? Does her daughter remember? How would she replay it?

National Tea grocery store is now a vacant lot by the railroad tracks on 115th street. The heyday of Roseland is long gone. That woman, as a sign of the times, probably flew out of there with all the rest.

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