Monday, November 30, 2009
Smitten by a certain little girl (East Point, GA)
One of the reasons I decided to walk from Chattanooga through Atlanta, instead of a more direct route through Birmingham, was because of certain friends I really wanted to see. This journey is about people, plain and simple, and so I wanted to make a point of spending time with those who have played an important role in my life, even if it is a few miles out of my way.
Jerry Weaver is one of those people. Jerry has known me since the day I was born. Like me, he is West Hebron born and bred and, as I've mentioned before on here, that creates a special bond.
I consider Jerry a friend for more reasons that simple geographical coincidence of birth. Jerry is a few years older than me, but like all of the group of boys slightly older than me in Hebron - Rick Waite, Sam Coldwell, Chris Worthington, Jerry, etc. - he always made a point to include me and Aaron in various activities, especially sports. As a young kid constantly striving to be like the older ones, that meant a lot.
I have another memory of Jerry that sends a smile creeping across my face. When my family moved to Africa and my brother and I were desperately missing West Hebron, he used to send audio tapes to us in Harare. On them he would put on different comedy sketches, some by himself and some with his sister Leslie, and we would laugh hysterically at the inside jokes about West Hebron and the cast of characters who live there. I couldn't have imagined a better gift that would have been more appreicated .. and anticpated ... than those tapes were.
As adults our paths haven't crossed frequently, but I've always enjoyed it when they have. He came to Philly for a Mumia Abu-Jamal rally in the early 90s when I was in college and we got to spend some time together. My father and I stayed with him in Iowa when we were driving cross country in 2004. Two years later our paths crossed in West Hebron over Christmas and I got to meet his then fiance Donna who he married shortly after.
Talking with Jerry is always a treat because he makes me think. I relate to him because we are both dreamers of a sort. He is a professional anthropologist and a professor at Spelman and as such is interested in human behavior, history and sociological trends. I am nothing but an amatuer anthropologist and a professor of walking-along-the-shoulder-of-roads, but I love the exchange of ideas that comes from talking to other free thinkers who don't necessarily fall into the mainstream of thought reflected by the majority culture.
For all the things we have in common, there are two where our life experiences decidedly differ. He has a wonderful wife and a beautiful daughter, and I have neither. In my defense, I haven't tried my hand at either. Obviously there are reasons for that we won't get into here, but we did light-heartedly touch on them over dinner at Jerry & Donna's house. Suffice it to say I'm not ready yet, and since I try to live in the present moment as much as possible, I don't see the point in trying to divine my future in that regard.
Jerry and Donna took wonderful care of me. They were a tag-team in the kitchen, with Jerry slicing some amazing Salmon sashimi and Donna putting her foot in some Talapia, spinach & rice and asaparagus spears. Along with Donna's friend Nichelle we put a hurting on that food and a bottle of wine and shared some great conversation on topics as diverse as Atlanta's mayoral election and Jerry's beloved grandfather - someone who I decidedly can not picture as mayor of Atlanta but who was a beautiful soul and a great man (and who was friends with my own grandfather Big Daddy).
Then there is Kala, Donna & Jerry's daughter. I don't get smitten with kids often. Let me rephrase. I don't ever get smitten with little kids. But Kala was something else. Almost as soon as I walked in Jerry handed her to me so he could put away some food and she didn't even bat an eyelash. She smiled and giggled at me and then I fed her some organic food and an avocado and it was like we were long time friends. In other words, she charmed the socks off of me. She is so cute and has such an endearing personality that .... dare I say it .... no .... cannot compute ... it almost made me want a child of my own. Wait. What was that I heard? A collective gasp?
All joking aside, if I lived in Atlanta, I would be happy to babysit little Kala. And let me use this opportunity to wish her a happy birthday. She was a week away from celebrating her first birthday when I was there. Here's hoping I get to see her and Donna and Jerry much more in the coming years. And that she gets to have a childhood experience filled with all the love and adventure that Jerry and I were surrounded by as kids in West Hebron. I'm sure she will.
On Tuesday morning Jerry and Kala walked me to the entrance of their subdivision to say goodbye and set me on the road to Union City. As I walked away it occured to me that Jerry is the last person I will meet on this trip who I already know and am friends with. From here on out it is first time meetings each night all the way to New Orleans. I couldn't have picked a better person, or a better family, to be the last outpost of my known world.