Instead of touching the bus driver, she said, "Thank you," as they looked into each other's eyes, sharing a moment of grace and true humanity. He drove away, never looking back. She turned to Rodney and me and said, "We just got a beautiful gift. Never forget it. God is taking care of us." And she never mentioned it again.
As a little girl, I wondered what it would have been like to wait for a bus like anyone else, to go into any restroom anywhere, and be welcomed into any restaurant we chose. I imagined Mom saying, "Hey, let's take a break from shopping and go have lunch," like any other citizen of the world. But that was not our world.
When I think back about why we didn't end up feeling inferior every day of our lives, I give credit to my loving family. We were very close, my parents made sure we had good manners and morals, and my mom always had several white friends who were sympathetic to contemporary black issues. While a few white women were still stuck in racial prejudice, most of Mom's friends, the white women who were married to NCOs (noncommissioned officers), never believed the ridiculous and denigrating myths and lies surrounding Negroes.
After all, the men worked in close proximity, whether they were white or black. And Mom's ability to create dress patterns and sew beautiful clothing gave her a special standing among her group of friends. Mom was so good at sewing, they could show her a dress on the cover of Vogue magazine and she could create that very dress and make her friends look classic and rich. My mom's white friends knew that we were good people and that she wanted the same things for us that they wanted for their own children. Today, I see what a great role model my mom was. She didn't believe in prejudice and she didn't want us to grow up hating or fearing white people.