Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ora Newman

We go on a stroll almost every evening, usually to the creek that runs about 3 blocks south of our house. But tonight, I felt the itch to go somewhere different. Instead of going south, we went north, turning on a side-street that we've rarely walked on. And lo-and-behold, what a serendipitous decision it was!

We met Ora Newman. She was standing on the sidewalk in front of her house, poking at some weeds with her cane.

"Hello," I said, "Isn't is a lovely evening?"

"Isn't it though?" she replied, "It is such a beautiful night!"

It was cool, the breeze was blowing, and there wasn't a cloud in sight.

Ora (which is also the name of one of Squeeze's paternal Great-Grandmothers) is a small black woman in her mid-late 80's; she uses a cane to get around, hobbles a bit, and wears spectacles so thick they look like magnifying glasses. When she saw that we had a baby in the stroller, she immediately started squawking and crooning, calling him, "Sugar Boy" or "Mother's Love", and asking him how he was enjoying his walk. He smiled at first, but then stared at her wide-eyed until breaking down into intermittent tears.

We talked outside for awhile; we learned that she had lived in her home for 50+ years, her husband, Oscar, had 'passed' 12 years prior, and that they were some of the first black people to move into the neighborhood. She wanted to give Starbeans some mints, something - anything. Then she invited us in, saying "I've got to get this boy something! Ooooo - Mother's Love."

I love Grandmas. In fact, I love anyone's Grandma.

Her home was exquisitely kept and decorated. The carpet, walls, blinds, and drapes were all a light blue. Her home was decorated in 50's style - amazing boxey furniture with gold fabric woven in, lovely sculpture, curved ceilings, and wall-paper in the dining room that could make your mother cry. So ornate, it was shimmery with felted designs that added texture and made me want to touch it. She also had bowls of mints and candies everywhere.

We talked for awhile, and learned that her husband's father, Cecil Newman, had started the first black newspaper in Minneapolis - The Spokesman. She also said that while they were looking at houses in our neighborhood, they were told courteously, "We're sorry - we don't sell to blacks" (by the realtors). It is hard for me to even fathom this concept. However, they had decided on the neighborhood. They liked it, got in contact with a lawyer, and moved in; she said that the neighbors have always been extremely friendly and in the 50+ years that she has lived there, not one thing has ever been stolen from their yard or home. She had a dog for many years that she named, "Joipan". In fact, her neighbor named his dog, "Joi" in honor of her dog and she says that she takes care of him while the neighbor is out of town.

The conversation was punctuated with "Sugar Boy wants some pop - look how hard he is working on that can! He really needs some pop. Com'on now, go on in the kitchen and get a small cup. Oh go on - give him some pop!"

We had to leave before we wanted to, as Squeeze needed to head to bed. (He gets up at 2:30 a.m. with his new job - can we say yikes?) As we were leaving, she said, "Com'on back now, and visit me, Sugar Boy - I mean it!"

We exchanged goodbyes, and while we were parting, she said something very meaningful to me: "You never know who you're gonna meet, or what new friends you'll make!"

All because we took a little detour on our nightly walk.

We will definitely be visiting Ora Newman again: without a doubt.

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