‘you don’t need to be a child to have a happy childhood.’

yesterday i went to go pick up my mom from the
local senior center after running a couple of
errands. the day was overcast, almost London dreary
if you will. you could see it reflected on the
faces of some people waiting to catch a careening
dollar van. a couple of people got shocked as i
actually acknowledged them as they walked by. as
if they didn’t expect me to be polite. the center
wasn’t too far of a walk.

when i got there, the vitality hit me the moment
i walked through the doors. i held the door open
for two elders with canes. ‘that’s okay babe. i
got this!’ one of them told me, jauntily stepping
through dressed up in a cashmere sweatsuit. i had
to chuckle. i talked to the front desk attendant
and went to the main hall and found myself face to
face with a full exercise class. and what exercise;
they were WORKING it out to some soul music!! i sat
down and waited. i got a great deal of quiet joy
out of watching them. even when it came to the ‘cool
down’ section towards the end.(which reminds me, i
need to dig for that jazz interpretation of Jefferson
Airplane’s ‘Go Ask Alice’…they had that as the
theme music.)

what had me inspired the most was the shining life in
everyone’s faces. there’s many of us who take it for
granted that the elderly among us still fit some cliches.
but i have to admit, there were a few there who could
give any of us a run for our money. one guy came up
and looked at me. ‘they better than you, eh?’ he said
with a laugh in the seasoned accent of someone from the
Caribbean that has always been part of my life. one of
the more active participants turned out to be 92. 92!
and some of us complain about minor aches.

i was touched by the happiness on these people’s faces.
and in a way, i thought about how there’s people in
this country’s government who’d dare to steal it through
cutbacks and closures. there were people here from other
neighborhoods in South Queens because of closures in
their own neighborhood. thank God and the hard work of
others that a center like this one can accept them. this
senior center is a space that not only gives life back to
people who’ve given life to the community, but it adds to
it. they feed the hungry for as little as $1.25. and they
also had a list of green markets to get produce from.
you couldn’t help but feel good being there. my mom
was energized being there. i know i was.

as we headed out, i noticed a sign on the wall that said,
‘you don’t need to be a child to have a happy childhood.’
and that really resonated with me because i saw that being
lived out in every one of these elders’ beautiful Black
faces. the moment we stepped outside, the slight drizzle
of rain that was present stopped. and i could actually see
the clouds changing from gray to light blue in the distance.

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