The early bird catches the…

…eggplant? Not quite what you might have expected, right? Well, neither is my neighborhood.

This morning while I was walking Jeter, a woman around the corner was tending her front yard vegetable garden. We exchanged “good mornings,” and she complimented Jeter on what a good dog he was. She asked how old he was and we made conversation about the merits, in my experience, of males vs female dogs. Her children are always fascinated by my 85 lb beast and the woman had related, in a previous conversation, that Jeter had been the first dog she had met when she moved to Albany.

She asked me if I liked eggplant. I responded with an enthusiastic affirmative and she went to get a knife to cut a beautiful, ripe one from her garden. I accepted it with appreciation and we exchanged names after years of simply sharing smiles. It was a pleasant interaction and a lovely way to start my Sunday.

My neighborhood is diverse with a variety of ethnicities present. There are Africans and Hispanics on my block, with Asians and additional cultures represented on the three other streets which comprise the four block area known as DelSo. I have neighbors in every shade and it’s one of my favorite parts of living where I have for more than 25 years.

Someone once accused me (on social media) of having come up with the name DelSo as a tactic to separate where I live from other areas of Delaware Avenue. In her opinion, the term DelSo was racist. She encouraged people to not use the word.

My initial emotional response to learning of her accusation was to be hurt. I worried that people who read her words would believe that I intended to distance myself from people who might not look or be like me. It caused me to reflect on how I originally came up with the name DelSo and I recognized that my motivation had been to create a term that acknowledged that this four block pocket of Albany, nestled between a busy road and the thruway, was special.

Ethnicity, culture or race had nothing to do with it.

After that self-checkin, I came to the realization that the only one who gets to define who I am, is me. It no longer mattered to me what someone else might claim to know about me and feel compelled to publicly declare. I know that my neighborhood is a culturally rich, generous community where I have been happy to raise my children and own a home. I believe I live in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in this city and I truly and sincerely celebrate that fact.

Additionally, I know exactly who I am – a woman who will prepare something delicious with a gorgeous homegrown eggplant and one who is already thinking about what she can bake and share with her DelSo neighbor.

Happy Sunday.

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