Last weekend we attended a birthday party for a girl in Cody’s third grade class. Cody has spoken of this girl, who I shall refer to as Bea, for quite some time. They play together at recess and spend time sitting on a bench in the school’s butterfly garden just chatting. Cody has also told me that Bea and him like to play Tinkerbell – she plays the part of the pirate and Cody gets to be Tinkerbell. It makes me smile to visualize that.
When we arrived at the party, Bea’s younger sister promptly informed me that Cody and her sister were boyfriend and girlfriend. She then skipped merrily off singing, “Cody and Bea, sitting in a tree…” – you know the rest.
There was roller skating, hotdogs and cake, presents, party bags, and balloons.
Most of the adults were rather good at roller skating, especially some of the men who glided across the polished wooden floor as if it were ice. It had been at least two decades since I had been on roller skates. I found that I could skate forward and even turn and stop when I wanted (for the most part). I could not, however, get the hang of skating backward. I would stick my left leg out and back, try to turn my hips and push off the ground. Then I would try with my other leg. The floor would not move under me. I am sure I looked rather comical floundering around in one place getting nowhere.
As I was getting an impromptu lesson on skating backwards from one of the beautifully gliding men, a woman motioned me over to the wooden railing. She introduced herself as Bea’s Aunt. Then she said how glad she was that our family came – something about us crossing over the color line. It took me by surprise. I was not sure how to respond other than to politely and honestly say that we were glad for the invite and we were all having a great time.
I always feel a bit awkward at kids birthday parties, walking into a roomful of strangers, trying to make chit-chat. And yeah, to be honest, it crossed my mind that I might feel a bit more out of place at this particular birthday party than others I have attended but only because I do not have much practice with being in the minority.
But I did not. In fact, I think I was so focused on roller skating, on skating backwards, that any feelings of awkwardness I felt were of the physical kind and had nothing to do with meeting strangers, whatever race they or I might be.