If I had My Life to Live Over – Erma Bombeck
Mr. Washington – Les Brown
The Boy Under the Tree – David Coleman and Kevin Randall
Three Letters from Teddy – Elizabeth Silance Ballard
I Had Done Nothing But Acknowledge My Sisterhood
The year was 1959. At the Trailways bus station, we formed two lines, whites in one and blacks behind in another. Being the last white people in line, my little daughter and I took the last two seats before the long seat across the back of the bus, which would soon be filled by four black women. An elderly black woman and a young black man were left standing in the aisle.
We set out on our journey, lurching westward along the roads of Mississippi. The elderly lady was having a difficult time keeping her footing, so I quickly picked up my two-year-old and put her in my lap, and offered the lady a seat, which she timidly took. I was pregnant, and I asked the grandmotherly lady if my daughter could sit in her lap instead of mine. We smiled, made the transfer, and traveled on but not far.
Suddenly, the bus pulled to the side of the road, and a rabid bus driver exploded down the aisle toward the back of the bus as every head turned to watch. When he reached our row, he unleashed venom at the black lady holding my daughter, the gist of which was, “How dare you sit with a white woman!” After he had finished accusing her of all manner of crimes against humanity, I heard these words come through my mouth with calm assurance: “Sir, this is my mother.”
The rage in his face was obvious, but he was speechless. Here sat a black woman holding a tiny white child in her lap, with a white woman sitting next to her who had just claimed kinship. Had we been sitting in any other seat, the driver would have thrown us off the bus, or worse, but we were sitting in the back rows that were usually reserved for blacks, and there was absolutely nothing he could say or do. If I were black, then I was surely sitting in the proper place on the bus. Stomping back down the aisle, he drove on amidst whispering whites.
When all had quieted down, I felt a light tap on my shoulder and turned to face a group of smiling black women. “We thank you for what you have done,” one said. I had done nothing but acknowledge my sisterhood with another human being. Jane Trotter, Flint, Michigan
These and other stories from that era can be found at the AARP Magazine website.