She doesn’t know the half of it.
I grew up obsessed with ice hockey, due to the new professional team which arrived in Landover, Maryland, in 1974.
Even though the Washington Capitals were horribly incompetent and were pummeled night in and night out, and even though their losses made me cry, it was still my dream to grow up to play for them.
When I was 7, my family moved one block away from the Chevy Chase Club. It had 40 acres of land, a luxurious sprawling golf course, a bowling alley, and, wait for it, an outdoor ice rink! Not just a rink, people, but an entire, well-developed youth hockey program.
I could see the scoreboard from the end of my street. I could hear the air horn at the end of periods. I could walk down in the evening and watch, nose against the glass, as children my own age flew around the ice banging into each other and flinging pucks toward masked gladiators guarding the goals.
When an errant puck flew over the glass, I scurried to recover it, like a squirrel snatching up acorns.
I was dying for my family to join the Chevy Chase Club.
My parents said we couldn’t join because, “They don’t allow black people.”
I was totally bewildered by this reasoning. I didn’t see the relevance at all.
“We’re not black,” I reminded family members repeatedly.
At school, I began to feel some ambivalence when Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement were discussed each February.
Black people were the victims of slavery and segregation, sure, but they were also turning out to be a major freaking obstacle on my own path to glory.
Even at 7 years old, I knew the hourglass was running out. From reading player biographies, I knew hockey players started skating when they were 3 or 4. I was only in 2nd grade, but my dreams were already slipping away. (Not unlike the last traces of melting snow around an outdoor rink, if you must know the truth.)
Today, I am able to acknowledge that African-Americans were not directly responsible for me not growing up to be a professional ice-hockey player.
It was my parents.
The truth is, Maryland was hardly fertile ground for future NHL stars. No one in my family played ice hockey. None of my friends played hockey.
Plus, I was the fourth of four children. There is a remote chance my parents were not thrilled at the prospect of waking up at 5am to get me to hockey practice.
There is a remote chance, too, that even if they had joined the club and gotten me into one of those majesterial, awe-inspiring, black-and-red CCC hockey jerseys, I might not have developed into the next Gretzky or Lemieux. That is theoretically possible.
Due to my extreme generosity of character, and my overall level of spiritual enlightenment (extremely high, just so you know), I have forgiven my parents and African-Americans for colluding to squash my boyhood dreams.
That said, I did start my Father’s Day yesterday by waking up at 5am to drive my kids to, well, you get the idea.