I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri.
I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri, listening to Greg Brown sing, “The Train Carrying Jimmie Rodgers Home”.
I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri contemplating exactly what type of curmudgeon I will become.
Our family moved to Ferguson in 1984. I was 30 years old and had the idea I wanted an old house. We purchased a small Victorian home built in 1890, it had three bedrooms, one and a half baths with an enormous formal dining room. We scraped, we sanded, we painted, we sawed and we hammered. We built a treehouse, created a perennial garden with antique roses. We also got involved in the community. Commissions, boards and local politics.
The Smith family (not their real name) lived next door to us. The Smith family were African-American. It was a non issue, we were a diverse community, that’s a big part of the beauty of Ferguson. Our oldest daughter when she became old enough to realize there were differences in race assigned flavors to people, not color. The Smiths were chocolate, we were peach (let’s be honest, who wants to be vanilla?)
Only one full bath was not enough for our growing family, all girls by the way, so in 1992 we bought a larger house in Ferguson. It was also built in 1890. We started the process of scraping, sanding, painting, sawing and hammering all over again.
We watched as the downtown area of Ferguson gained new life; new and refurbished restaurants, bakeries, bicycle shop, loft apartments and even a wine bar. Some of those businesses were owned by chocolate people, some by peach people and some by caramel people.
I watched last night as some of those businesses were damaged, destroyed and burned.
On the scale of world tragedies, this was not even a blip … logically I know that, but dammit, it’s my town!
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “What seems to us more important, more painful, and more unendurable is really not what is more important, more painful and more unendurable, but merely that which is closer to home. Everything distant which for all its moans and muffled cries, its ruined lives and millions of victims, that does not threaten to come rolling up to our threshold today, we consider endurable and of tolerable dimensions.”
I am proud of my town. I am proud of how we have grown as a diverse community. I am proud that we have people of all flavors living, working, dining and worshipping together.
I am bewildered by the hate that has been thrust on our sleepy little diverse town. I am bewildered that under the guise of furor over racial injustices, many of the businesses targeted were minority owned.
I am unlikely to become the type of curmudgeon who shakes my cane at children and yelling, “get off my lawn.” That’s not my nature, nor do I care that much about my lawn. If I can keep my weeds mowed to a reasonable height, that’s good enough for me.
I’m more likely to become the type of curmudgeon who longs for simpler and slower times. I’m hardly a Luddite. I love my iDevices. I got most of my news last night from Facebook and Twitter, but I’m not sure we are better for having instant and most times semi-accurate news and opinions thrust on us constantly.
When my house was built if you wanted to have a conversation with a neighbor, it meant talking face-to-face. It meant reading someones expressions and body language. It meant being able to shake their hand or give a pat on the back. It meant give and take because we were neighbors.
When the shooting death of Michael Brown first happened, I naïvely thought that at the least maybe some good conversation would come from that tragedy.
No one seemed to be talking last night.
Ferguson still has it’s original train depot. It now serves as a small museum and frozen custard shop. During it’s heyday it served primarily as a commuter station, carrying the residents of Ferguson back and forth from St. Louis to work or attend the theatre.
I doubt that any famous funeral trains ever stopped in Ferguson. Certainly not Abraham Lincoln’s or even Jimmie Rodger’s. I’m not sure if we ever had any funeral trains.
But one left the old Ferguson depot last night, it carried my innocence.