I was usually perched on that counter, daily treated to an ice-cream sandwich, and otherwise the center of much fawning attention. I assumed that all those customers who stopped by to linger had come to see me. They certainly gave me no reason to think otherwise.
Then one day, I learned about race.
Dorothy and I were walking hand-in-hand down Main Street when we passed the Ritz Theater. I asked if we could go to the movies and she said no. Why? Because she would have to sit in the balcony and I would have to sit downstairs alone.
I was only 4, but old enough to recognize foolishness and injustice. How could that be? What reason? Nothing made sense as she tried to explain that the color of her skin was fraught with meaning. The illogic of her assertions, painfully if matter-of-factly rendered, was stunning even to a knee-high girl.
It made me angry.
Perhaps I would not have felt the wrongness of racial discrimination had it not affected me so directly. And, obviously, racism has done far worse than hurt feelings, or inconvenience a child of privilege. The shame of our racial history is a burden not easily lifted, but Obama's election has eased the weight considerably.
During the next four years, we will differ with our new president on policies and appointments, but we can all agree on the momentousness of this transaction. There's something different in the air.
The day after the election, an African-American woman and I were marveling about events and trying to put our finger on what had changed. That thing. The little speck of difference that kept us imperceptibly apart had been dissolved in a lovely instant of national consensus that race no longer matters.
I wish my Dot had lived to see it.