A Sunday Drive to Belle Isle

by DivaWriter

Daddy's 1959 Beige Ford hugged the asphalt pavement as it adroitly commanded the curve leading onto the "jewel" of Detroit- Belle Isle, an idyllic Eden smack in the middle of the city. It was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, and after a morning of Sunday school and church, my sister and I were anxious to get into the car, kick off our patent-leather shoes and enjoy the wind blowing through the open windows.

Belle Isle was not only our escape from the hot, noisy streets of the city, but it also held a special place in our hearts. "Daddy," one or the other of us children would gleefully ask him, "tell us the story again about you and mama going to Belle Isle when you were courting?" And never tiring of telling the story, a smile of remembrance would slowly cross his face, as he recounted how he and mama would park under the stars at night, the moon's reflection glimmering on the river, while strains of Nat King Cole serenades, echoed from the radio.

As we rode over the bridge, the view of the sun-sparkled river was a delight to us, and as we children joined daddy in an impromptu song, it seemed as though everything was right with the world. Yet seconds later, the moment would be interrupted by the unrelenting, brash sound of a horn. Looking behind him, daddy observed a carload of young white men, gaining speed on us, yelling obscenities.

"Hey, Nigger!" one man sneered, then referring to my fair-skinned, 10 year old sister, (who reflexively lowered herself down into the back seat) continued, "Whatcha doin' with that white girl in your car?"

Through the rearview mirror I could see daddy's face instantly turn from surprise to anger, as his normally laughing brown eyes narrowed and his mouth stretched tightly into a grimace. . I was only seven years old, yet I keenly recall feeling a sense of dreadful sadness, not so much for me and my sister, but for daddy. He was truly defenseless in this situation.

The driver of the other vehicle repeatedly began bumping the back of our car, knocking us forward in starts and stops. Fear enveloped my sister and me as we exchanged bewildered glances. Daddy's hands tightened on the steering wheel as he attempted to keep the car from running into the abutment that separated us from the river.

After what seemed an eternity, the men in the car drove off ahead of us, disappearing onto one of the forked roads that led deeper into the island. Left behind, though, was a melancholy that hung over us like a black cloud.

After composing himself, daddy continued our scenic drive that day; he took us to the picnic area, where we pushed the horrid scene from our young minds- as children uncannily do, and played on the monkey bars and swings. Yet never again would he take us cruising to Belle Isle. It would be many years, in fact, before I could once again visit this beautiful island in the city, without the tainted memories of that day; when my view of the world was tainted forever.

A Sunday Drive to Belle Isle by DivaWriter

© Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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