Of course I don't remember that happening. My first memory was in Columbus, Ohio, where my father was stationed at the Air Force base there. I was in diapers, about a year and a half old, and I recall my mother's colorful skirt and the gauzy white strings that hung off the bow of her apron. Her legs looked impossibly long, and I marveled at her wedged shoes that made her taller than she really was. She was at the kitchen sink, and I was on the floor beside her, when I heard an engine roar outside the house. We both turned to look past the black and white Formica kitchen table out into the courtyard to see my dad driving into the garage.
"Daddy's home," my mother practically sang, as I tried to climb up the table leg to see outside. Mom, pregnant with my brother, Rod, hoisted me up onto the kitchen table so I could watch my father get out of the car and come into the house. It makes my mom absolutely insane that I can remember these things in such minute detail from before I was two. But I do. I also remember sitting on the front steps, eating a slice of fresh tomato, and dropping it on the ground when my dad walked toward me. I was standing on shaky legs, my arms raised for him to lift me up, when I slipped on the tomato slice. I bounced once before my dad caught me. Back then, there was no one more amazing and strong in all the world.
My dad, Clarence Grier, was a strappingly handsome man with tremendous strength in his hands. I could literally feel youthful energy shoot through his fingers. He was kind and loving to me, and the scent of his cologne combined with the crisp, starchy smell of his clean Air Force uniform delighted me. A loving, carefree man, he was my mom's hero. He was so light-skinned, he could pass for white, which caused him a lot more trouble than if he had clearly looked black or white. His mom was mixed, and his blue-eyed dad was mixed but looked white, so he never really fit in anywhere.