This book of autobiographical short stories follows Sheryl J.
Bize-Boutte’s 2014 publication of “A Dollar Five: Stories From a Baby
Boomer’s Ongoing Journey.” In “Running For The 2:10-More Stories From a
Baby Boomer’s Ongoing Journey,” the discord of skin tone often seeps in
to color the path, playing like an ever present low hum in the
background of these coming of age tales. Set in Oakland, California,
the road winds from family shopping trips to the local hardware store
that activate the writer, to near derailing losses and finding
alternative ways back to joy. In these stories, Bize-Boutte deftly
describes how heartbreak can give way to hilarity and loss can make room
for celebration. Be prepared to laugh, cry and gasp out loud, in no
every time I roll on Skyline Boulevard in the Oakland hills, I wonder which
tree was responsible.I haven’t checked
them up close, but from driving by I can’t detect any visible scars or marks on
any of them that would indicate the violent collision that took my friend Dot’s
life on prom night 1967.
The song “Teen Angel” and
others like it depicting tragic accidents were a part of our soundtrack. The
songs scared us, but the fear did not translate once we were in the car as
teenagers.We like everyone else our age
then and since, thought we were invincible. So when it happened to someone at
your school or in your town that you may not have known, it made you think about it, if only for a bit. But
when it happened to someone you knew and had seen alive only a few weeks
before, it changed who you were.
was an only child and doted on by her parents.They were middle class people who gave her all they could and that it
year included a beautiful dress and matching shoes for prom night. By the time
that night was over, Dot would be gone and shock and sadness would arrive at
their front door. Dot’s father would later tell my mother that Dot was so
mangled by the impact that they would not be allowed to see her.Ever again. For a long time I had nightmares
My mom and Dot’s mom had been
friends since they were teenagers.A few
months older than I was, my kinship with Dot began when we were toddlers and
her mother was my babysitter.I was so
close to Dot and her mother back then, I would only eat what Dot ate and
shunned my mother’s cooking.Dot’s
mother said I was just mad that mom went to work and left me with her, and then
she would laugh that rich resonant laugh of hers.
When Dot became a preteen, her
parents gave her an entire wall in the garage to use for “self expression.”At first couldn’t grasp the meaning of that
but Dot knew right away that she would use that blank canvas to write the names
of every recorded song she and her friends knew.In our world at the time, music was central
to our very being and since no one else we knew was allowed to write on any
wall in the house, it soon became a high honor to be invited by Dot to make an
entry on that pale green expanse of drywall.
Dot had many friends but I like
to think that because I knew her so early in life that made me one of her
best.Although we only saw each other
when my parents visited hers, we had a strong bond that became even stronger by
the sharing of our new 45’s and her handing me the pen along with the silent sweet
permission to write on that wall.As
soon as I would get to her house, she and I would make a beeline for the garage
and play the newest tunes on the portable record player that sat on her father’s
workbench as we made our latest entries. One of her parents would always back
the car out into the driveway to give us room to write, spin, “Temptation Walk”
and stand back to see our handiwork in full. I don’t think I ever saw Dot’s
bedroom, it was always about the wall.
We did this for several years
and soon it became harder to find a space to write. Sometimes I would see
handwriting I did not recognize and I must confess, it made me cringe just a
bit.But then I would look at the entire
wall and see that most of the handwriting was Dot’s and coming in as a strong
second, was mine.
I don’t know how many song titles others and
we wrote on that wall but it was truly the song track of our young lives.We enshrined musical and American history
with “A Change Is Gonna Come,” “Heatwave,” “Uptight,” and “My Girl,” just to
name a few of the hundreds of songs that eventually made their way to the wall.
In 1966, I remember clearly
writing, “Land of a 1000 Dances,” as my last swirly cursive inscription. I know
the song and the year because miraculously I found an empty space to enter it
right in the middle of all of those songs.Dot put on the 45 as I wrote and then we did all of the dances as the
life shift took place and then that was that.
Now full-fledged teenagers,
boys and our own personal telephone lines had entered the picture and we saw
each other less and less.
It would only be about six
months after that last entry that Dot and her prom date would meet their fate
with a mean redwood on Skyline Boulevard in the Oakland Hills, probably within walking
distance from where I now live.
Years later I would take my
husband and my three year old daughter to visit Dot’s parents. The house was
exactly the same, but inside the air had shifted and was barely breathable by
those of us who understood.Permanently
unmoored, Dot’s parents reached up and grabbed something to make them happy to
see us.And because they knew we were
coming and they knew me, the car had already been moved to the driveway.
As I did so many times when I
was younger, I hugged them both hard as we exchanged cautious
pleasantries.And then, knowing it was
all right, with my daughter in tow, I made a beeline for the garage.
The space had been freshly
painted white, but the pale green wall with all of the songs written on it was
untouched. Even the old portable record player was still sitting on the
workbench and looked as if it had been freshly dusted.
I told my daughter the story of
Dot and me and the wall.I sang parts of
the some of the songs to her as she listened in rapt attention.I showed her Dot’s entries and I showed her mine.
As we headed back to the living
room to join the others, she asked me where Dot was.