Drifting on the Winds of Love

by on November 21, 2019 · 3 comments

in From the Soul

By Ernie McCray

I look at a picture of little boy me and it seems as though I’m about to gently rise and drift in the air.

And that’s how my life has seemed, like I’ve drifted in the air, on the winds of love, because I have truly been loved in my life.

Love is the first thing I ever felt – without knowing, of course, as a baby, that it was love I was feeling.

But I sure felt it, from my mother’s milk, from the soothing way she sang rock-a-by-baby” to put me to sleep.

From the feel of my “pinky” toe being wiggled and the bottom of my feet tickled while she sang about some little piggy crying “wee wee wee” all the way home to greet me when I awakened from my sleep.

And there was always the obligatory “pat-a-cake-pat-a-cake, baker’s man” to make my life as an infant complete…

And I felt the love in my dad’s smile, the one he flashed, seemingly, every time he laid eyes on me and in the “Amens” that showered me when I was a child at Mt. Calvary reciting a verse from the Bible from memory or singing “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”

The grownups in my life made me feel like there was something to “shining,” to standing out, to reaching for the stars, to trying to be the best that you can be.

I sensed such expectations of me in the way my great-aunt, Lillie, always treated me like I was good news or when my friend, an old woman named Geneva, would read a ditty I had pecked out on her beat up old Smith and Corona and hail me as the next Langston Hughes or every time somebody helped me choose good paths to take as I paid life’s dues.

And I’m just naming a few. But nobody set me adrift on the winds of love more than my grandfather: Charles Albert Chatman. One of the most loving human beings I have ever known.

Sometimes I would come home, absolutely beat down by Jim Crow and, in those moments, he would sit me at his knee and say: “Wait a minute, boy. Now I understand that somebody has treated you mean and hurt your feelings because you’re a Negro but tell me something. Does the man at Ronstadt’s Hardware treat you like that when you go there to buy something I need?”


“How about the man at Safeway who always cuts you a nice slice of fresh fruit and asks how your family’s doing? You gonna make him out to be a bad person?”


“And that woman at the library who’s always telling you about a good book to read and then puts a star on the wall next to each book that you’ve read and brags to everybody in the place about how smart you are – does she deserve your hate?”


“Then what you have here is a situation where you’ve been mistreated by a ‘white person,’ not ‘white people.” See, you can’t hold everybody responsible for the conduct of a few. Now tell me, am I right or wrong?”

“You’re right, Granddaddy.”

“Awright, then. Now let me tell you something that might do you some good.” He would then launch into the story about how he got up one morning when he was 14 or 15, determined not to live one more day under somebody else’s dominance. Slavery had ended but that didn’t seem to matter to the folks who ran the plantation in Hawkinsville, Georgia where he grew up in the late 1800’s.

On that particular morning Granddaddy knocked the foreman to the ground and ran away, never to see his folks again.

As he ran and hid in little southern towns, he learned a lot about people. He found, to his dismay, that there were a few black people who wouldn’t lend him a hand as they were afraid of what could happen to them if they were caught. He found, to his surprise, that there were a few white people who would feed him and say to him, “Now you can stay here out of the way today and tonight we’ll look out for you and tell you when there’s a good time to go.”

My, my, my,” my grandfather would say, “up to then the only white people I knew were mean and hateful; I didn’t know that they could be loving and kind. So, I learned not to jump to conclusions about people based on the color of their skin.”

Then he would tell me about how he became a seafaring man, traveling all over the world, meeting people of every color and creed imaginable. He’d say, “Some of those folks were ornery as can be, but there were many who were good to know and associate with. There are a lot of loving people of all sorts all around the world, boy. So, it’s just not wise to condemn somebody for the sins of others of their kind. Keep an open mind. Don’t miss opportunities to love or be loved.”

Then, most likely, after such a lesson, after I had reached a newer and richer level of human development, Granddaddy would say something like “Well, we oughta run up to the market and get some cream (ice cream). Now I don’t want much so you can eat most of mine.”

Oh, how I loved that grandfather of mine. My journey to becoming a loving man was, at times, a mighty rocky trip. But, in him, I had a master mentor guiding me. He was the man. My pal. I couldn’t have picked a better old block to be a chip off of. He and so many people, much to my benefit, taught me many of the ins and outs of love.

And I’ve drifted on those winds of love for a lifetime.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Glen November 21, 2019 at 4:15 pm

Aloha Ernie,

A fine piece of writing. My grandfather was also a “Grand Daddy”. He was the best too. He taught by example. A very loving man. Aloha, Glen


Ernie McCray November 21, 2019 at 5:36 pm

Aloha to a Granddaddy’s boy.


Thomas Gayton November 28, 2019 at 12:30 pm

My grandfather, Papa, taught me too, that Love is the answer.


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