In 1968, I lived with my parents, a younger sister, a springer spaniel and a golden retriever, in a west-side Chicago bedroom community called Wheaton, Illinois.
I was in the 4th grade while we lived there, and then the first half of 5th grade.
Wheaton was a tiny town most known for a college made famous by Dr. Billy Graham. (And some fairly well-known relatives on my dad’s side.) There was a quaint downtown area, a couple of blocks square, with a commuter train stop.
What I didn’t know then was that, in the days when Dr. King was killed, leaders of the Civil Rights movement were helping black families settle in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods right there in Wheaton. A child of one of those families went to my school.
What I did know then was that I’d been the new kid often enough to be concerned for that particular new kid.
It would be reasonable for you to wonder why this story is rolling around in my head this day.
Perhaps it’s simply lack of sleep from last night’s bone broth marathon.
More likely, it’s Turner Classic Movies’ showing of the movie, Yours, Mine, and Ours, complete with Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda and a young Tim Matthieson, who grew up to be John Hoynes on The West Wing.
Yours, Mine, and Ours was the first movie my sister and I were ever allowed to go see by ourselves. It was 1968.
The movie theatre in Wheaton was a tiny, vintage sort of establishment, just next door to a popcorn vendor, who claimed a space half the width of the adjoining alley. It was really, really, really good popcorn, complete with actual butter.
Mom and Dad dropped us off one afternoon with money for popcorn and for the pay phone when the movie was over.
Given the amazing fact that we were almost exactly the same ages that my girls are now, I have more than a bit of trouble imagining that felt safe even all those years ago.
I’m also oddly glad it did.
The news these days doesn’t exactly sound like Yours, Mine, and Ours.
It didn’t sound so much like that then either.
So, tonight, I watch old movies while perfectly dry brined chickens roast in the oven with some basting help from Bill, and pray that the news will be better and the fires will stop and all the kids will be welcome and love will prevail.
Afterall, we’ve been working on it for a long time.
It may be time to work harder.