A Friend Makes Me Feel Like I’ve Lived in a Dream

by on February 6, 2019 · 9 comments

in From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

I just finished “Platitudes and Attitudes,” a little book that was written by a dear lifelong friend, Shirley Robinson Sprinkles, “Shirlgirl.”

Shirley and I grew up in Tucson, Arizona in the 40’s and 50’s and as I read the “random thoughts and memories” that she had collected over the years, I was transported back in time, like in a dream.

She’d mention a street and I could see myself riding my bicycle down that street, popping a wheelie, with my levi’s ripped at the knees (light years before that was cool).

She’d describe an event, and I was there (trying to be cool).

I knew so many of the places, and when she’d say something about people from our past, I could see their childhood faces.

So many scenes in this dream.

I see Shirley and me posing in a picture when “We,” as she wrote, “couldn’t have been more than fifteen or sixteen years old,” innocent, still wet behind the ears.

I see us, two nine-year old fourth graders, missing recess to study for a radio quiz show where we would compete against the white schools because we went to Dunbar the colored school… I see the smile on our faces when we won and the look of despair if we lost…

I see us going into the 8th grade the year Tucson City Schools were desegregated. She went off to a school where the students were mostly white, a school that had been in her neighborhood all along; I just walked a block to the school we had both been attending to learn with Mexican Americans, a school that had been in their/our neighborhood all along…

Maintaining our thirst for learning, we did well in the transition, both of us feeling proud that we were part of that history…

And the dream goes on as I can hear Shirley and me singing some song like “Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world” in the award winning Dunbar choir, as Mr. Dawson tries to color our harmonies with body movements and facial expressions of joy or pain…

I can hear our sighs of relief after a day of picking cotton, doing our very little bit to help bring home the bacon in a Jim Crow town where most of our parents were janitors or Pullman porters and the like…

And the old friends she mentions really rise to the fore: Eva Bazey, dazzling us at an assembly with her powerful contralto voice; Thelma Andrews and Gwendolyn Sparks and Elnora Washington bringing the house down with theirs; Edith Butler’s gentle life-affirming smile; James Hollands leading the pack in the 600; Tommy Scott, never letting me off the hook when I had screwed up; Leroy Dyson punting a football across the whole playground.

Charles Greene, “Turkey Red,” on that same playground giving some trash talker his “I’ve had enough of your bullshit” look as everybody gathers around knowing that some serious ass kicking was about to go down; Johnny Sanders, “Pot Brother,” trying to impress some honey with his “Hey, baby, if you hook up with me I’ll throw all my money up in the air and all that stays up is mine and all that hits the ground is yours” as she says, “Negro, please. If it took a penny to go around the world you couldn’t get out of sight” and then everybody laughs with all their might…

I marveled, as I read what Shirgirl had to share, how parallel our lives have been over the years.

She has, after a divorce or two, a “committed life partner” named Leo and I smile in appreciation of that because I know what it’s like having such a sidekick as I’ve had two since a divorce or two, Nancy, who passed away, and now, Maria, who excites me everyday…

She has children and grandchildren and so do I…

As a teacher she engaged students in what she calls “dramatic play” and I’ve taught in much the same way.

She writes and I write…

And we could get down on the dance floor…

Only in a dream, it seems, could I have enjoyed a lifelong friendship with such a wonderful human being.

One of those dreams that cause you to wake up with a smile on your face.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirley Sprinkles February 6, 2019 at 7:26 pm

Wow! What a way you have with words, Dear CharlieMack! I love your marvelous review of mine. Let’s keep our pencils sharp!


Rosetta Bullock February 7, 2019 at 3:21 pm

Charles, what a review of Shirley’ s

Charles , what a wonderful review of Shirley’s book to her special and loved friends. I have always admired her and kept up with my friend since we met in the first grade at
Dunbar. What a friendship more like sister’s than friends.


Bernard Ashcraft February 20, 2019 at 5:28 pm

Please help me lobby Councilmember Montgomery to make Ernie San Diego’s Poet Laureate


Willie Horton February 20, 2019 at 7:22 pm

I truly enjoyed reading your reflections! Is Gwendolyn Sparks Ed Sparks sister?


Ernie McCray February 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm

Gwendolyn is indeed Ed’s sister.


Sister IRMA JEANISSE February 21, 2019 at 6:40 pm

I thank you my brother for caring so much to share with so many I thank you for your writings now help a sister out hook me up with Shirley give Shirley my phone number and information because I want every book that she’s created.
Keep Doing you. I love Marie and You See you in November.


Ernie McCray February 22, 2019 at 1:56 pm

I will connect you.


Elaine February 23, 2019 at 7:39 am

Thank you for writing so eloquently. I look forward to reading your poetic words.


Judy Direnfeld March 6, 2019 at 8:37 am

I so appreciated reading your comments on Shirley’s book. I, too, have memories of our being in high school. Unfortunately, not all are wonderful and some were very stressful as that was the first year of desegregation. I distinctly remember an incident Shirley and I had by a select group of Mexicans. I had offered Shirley a bite of my ice cream cone ( which she enjoyed as well) and that brought down havoc. I was approached by this same group in PE and somewhat threatened). Time has progressed, however, I don’t think the rest of the world has progressed as well as Tucson. Thanks again for your insight.


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