“Did your Momma ever tell you we knew each other when we were young?” Papa, my dear father-in-law, had piqued my interest.
I first met Robert Massey shortly after becoming engaged to his eldest son. He treated me kindly, as a cherished daughter. So I called him Papa like everyone else. Likewise Momma embraced Billy as a beloved son. Our union bridged the racial lines of two diverse southern families. And no one seemed to mind.
Fast forward 14 years later and Papa’s question hinted at a backstory that explained much. He had met Momma when they were teenagers.
This is Papa’s story:
It was the 1940s. Papa was a telegram delivery boy for Western Union. To shorten his long walk from the city outskirts to the downtown office, he often cut through an alley located in a Black section of town. Each morning he would pass by a teenage girl who was also taking a short cut to work.
“That girl was your Momma. Every morning we would speak. Yep. Saw her every morning. You should ask her about it.” Papa advised. So I did.
This is Momma’s story.
She worked as a maid for with a prominent banker who lived in a lovely antebellum home near town. Momma, new to the area, found lodging at a boarding house. To make her trek to work easier, she would leave by a back door that emptied into an alley. Every morning this white boy would pass by…
“We always spoke to each other. He was so friendly. But then he was nice to everyone. He didn’t care if you were Black. He was the white boy that always ate lunch at the colored folks diner. Nobody minded. Everybody liked him.”
What I find so endearing about this story is that during the height of racial segregation in the Deep South, Papa saw people for their character, not their color. I’m blessed that he passed this trait onto his sons. Especially the one I married.
Thank you for the legacy Papa. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.
Papa: September 15, 1928 – October 31, 2014