Life in the Broaddus Creative Mind

When I was in second grade, my teacher (Ms. Rainey) didn’t know what to do with me. I wasn’t exactly a bad or troublesome student, but I was the only black student in my class and obviously bored. Ms. Rainey had an overloaded class and had her hands full catching kids up to the current curriculum in class much less deal with students who were ahead of the curve. So she put me in a corner with a stack of paper and told me to just “create whatever appealed to” me. So I wrote, drew, created little books and just let my imagination and creativity run wild.

[As opposed to my brother, who was also bored, but his teacher—who shall remain nameless—had low to no expectations of blacks, males in particular, and all but said so. So through neglect, she stripped away any interest he had in school that he’s only regained as an adult.]

I was reminded about the state of my desk as I wandered into the room of my eldest son, Reese. He has his own desk in there, surrounded by books and stacks of paper. Within easy reach were trays of markers, pens, pencils, crayons, beads, and clips – things he’d need at fingertip access to in order to create at a moment’s notice. Everything was collected and separated by sandwich bags (which reminded me of the shelf of cereal boxes I used to use as my filing cabinets for all of my projects and “research” when I got home). All about were half-finished projects and preparation for new projects amidst the organized chaos that is a creative mind.

I had entered the forbidden zone since I had to clean it because when I’m in MY creative throes, I am compelled to clean and organize. No worries, I preserved the order and condensed it to his desk, getting rid of only the trash and toys and cups that tend to accumulate during … creative bursts.

Just something I wanted to note. On the flip side, we spent the evening trying to convince my youngest son that “Cock” was not the best way to shorten the name for his pet rock, “Cock-A-Doodle”. Of course, I suppose that I probably ought to be more disconcerted by him talking to and petting a rock …

Broaddus Family Tradition Continues

Summer 1978. Franklin, Indiana. My childhood friend, Richard Jordan, and I were the fastest kids among our friends. We had a long standing debate about who was the fastest between us. Watching this display of would be alpha male preening was my father. It was late in the afternoon, he stood on the porch in one of his “ready to go out” outfits, dressed to the nines, pimp shoes in full effect chuckling over us.

“I used to be pretty fast in my day,” he said.

“Yeah, right.” We didn’t mean to sound as dismissive as we were. Well, maybe we did. We were all of 7 and 8, masters of the playground. My dad was old. Big, as in 250+ pounds big. Taller than both me and Richard stacked atop each other. Smoking his cigarette, drinking his “warm up” drink. Obviously, there was only one way we could settle this.

“You want to race us?”

“I guess I could give it a shot.” My dad walked the length of the brick paved road (it was the last brick paved road in the city. To this day, there remains a small strip of the street that is brick-paved to remind everyone of how the street used to be). He set his drink and his cigarette at the finish line and walked back to us.

By now my brother and some of our friends gathered on our front porch to watch. Me and Richard grinned broadly at one another, all but high fiving ourselves in anticipation.

“Someone want to count it off?” my dad asked.

Our friend Missy shouted from the porch. “Ready, set, … go!”

Richard and I were fast. Richard and I both went on to have some pretty good track and field careers through junior and high school.

My dad, in his slick dress shoes, reached the finish line and had time to take a drag from his cigarette and a swig from his glass before we crossed the line. He didn’t say anything. Just walked back to the porch, our friends parting for him in awed silence, as he went back into the house. He never did mention that he still held all of the track and field (as well as many of the football and basketball) records in Franklin High School.

Summer 2009. Indianapolis, Indiana. My boys Reese and Malcolm were running in the gym in the Harrison Center during one of our First Friday tours. They asked me if I could race with them. So I set down my “warm up” drink (it was wine and champagne night along the First Fridays tour), and …

So we can add this to the list of Broaddus Family traditions (okay, I’ll admit, I was trying to grab my drink in mid-leap). What scares me is wondering if my dad wasn’t running at full tilt either.