signs of progress

Thank you to Dana Rudolph of Mombian
for contributing this beautiful guest post.

There’s always a first time. I was with my son at his school
playground last week, taking advantage of the unseasonably warm
weather to hang with the other parents and kids at the end of the
day. My son wandered over to the sandbox, where another boy his age
was playing. They introduced themselves in the soft, hesitant tones
of children still practicing social niceties.

The other boy then asked “What’s your cousin’s name?”

My son looked puzzled, as did I. “I don’t have a cousin,” he
said. (He does, of course, but not in the vicinity.)

“What’s your cousin’s name?” the boy asked again, with the
persistence of the preschooler. The best I can figure is that he
meant the other redhead on the playground, who is no relation
except insofar as we carrot-tops all have some common genetic link
back down the evolutionary tree. My son again responded in the

The boy went in a different direction. “What’s your dad’s

No one else heard the gong going off in my head. I kept silent,
wanting to see how my son handled it. He paused for just a second
to think.

“Well, that’s Mommy,” he explained, gesturing to me. “And
the other one’s Momma, but she’s at work now.”

“This truck can go faster than the boat,” said the boy, picking
up two of the somewhat battered toys sitting in the sand, and doing
a demonstration.

Bravo, young man, I thought to my son, proud that he’d found his
own answer. I was heartened, too, by the other boy’s simple
acceptance of the response. Maybe they will indeed grow up into a
better world.

It struck me, then, that the two of them, going to the same school
and playing together with nary a raised eyebrow from parents or
teachers, represented another sort of progress. My son is white,
and his new friend is black. No, the world isn’t perfect yet, for
either of them, but it’s a whole lot better than it was. With
effort and luck, it will continue in that direction. I watched them
drive trucks around, rapt in the present, unaware of either the
past or future they embodied. Two boys, covered in sand and hope.