That summer, the poison ivy found its way to my older brother’s legs, then along his hands and arms. As he suffered what we discovered was an allergic reaction to the ivy; a fiery rash settled itself over my brother’s neck and throat until, finally, my grandmother took him to the one white doctor who would treat black patients in our segregated town.
Dr. M. had a jar in the reception room filled with rock candy that he gave out to both his patients and their sugar-loving siblings. Other doctors wouldn’t even look at colored people, let alone treat them. In our Brooklyn school we were being taught that segregation was a thing of the past. But in Greenville, we lived in Nicholtown, a segregated neighborhood inside of a segregated town. I realized that either Greenville was cheating or Brooklyn was lying.
Coming home from Dr. M.’s my grandmother trailed the four of us to the back of the bus where other blacks had settled themselves. I sat, as I always did, in a window seat leaning into my grandmother — for safety? For assuredness? For comfort? For love. I watched downtown Greenville become Nicholtown again. We had left “home” the first time with my mother for the dream of New York. At 9, I felt as though home was turning its back on me now without so much as a wave goodbye.
Jacqueline Woodson won the 2014 National Book Award for her memoir “Brown Girl Dreaming.” Her novel “Another Brooklyn” is to be published Aug. 9.