We’ve lost another kid from this circa 1979 Flynn Park soccer team photo. Christian Reedy passed away in St. Louis this week. I’m still in shock. But here are some thoughts.
Before anything else, I send my condolences to all of the Reedys in St. Louis and all the members of his family that are outside of the bi-state area. If you need me during this time…let me know…you know how to get in touch.
Up front, I know I hadn’t seen Chris in person since we saw each other at a gathering at Blueberry Hill in The Loop after the passing of another one of our teammates in this picture, Darren Valeriote, in 2016. But I knew about him through his sister, Cara Reedy in NYC, and his dad, Mr. Reedy, when I’d run into him at Schnucks. (BTW, even though I’m more than 50 now, “Mr.” IS his first name forever in my book, and not “Sidney”… just like Chris’ mom’s first name is “Mrs.” and not “Judith” like Facebook insists.)
Even though Chris and I really didn’t stay in touch much after our 8th grade indoor soccer team and he left the U. City School District, Chris and his family was, and always will be, completely part of the origin story that I tell myself and others about growing up in my hometown…and for that, I’m grateful.
I guess I met Chris back in kindergarten when I was sent all the way to the other side of University City to intentionally integrate Flynn Park Elementary School in 1975-76. The Reedys lived near Flynn, so it was their neighborhood school. At the time, I lived around the corner from Daniel Boone, all the way on the other side of town. But since my mom was an educator in the City of St. Louis, and Daniel Boone only had an interim principal, she knew that school at that time wasn’t ideal. Fast forward, and someone on the school board heard about this. Long story short, I ended up being placed at Flynn.
During my six years at the school, I think there were somewhere around 300 kids in the regular part of the school, but there were no more than about 8 Black kids there at any time. And from my certainly hazy memory, the 4 families were the Mutharikas (including Moyenda), the Harrises (including Darold and Darwin), the Milams (myself and my younger sister Jan), and the Reedys. But Chris and I were the only two Black kids in our grade. I don’t know that we were ever in the same classroom (usually there were at least 2 classes in the same grade), but we’d always see each other at recess and lunch and the other times when all the kids of the same grade were together. And my sister and I certainly spent time playing and being at the Reedy house. I think it felt to me like we were just hanging out with some cousins. And Cara, to this day, still ALLEGES that I broke some of her toys. (When she produces some 4k iPhone video surveillance footage of said toys being broken by me in ~1978, I will gladly and publicly apologize to her. Short of that, I choose to believe that I am innocent of all charges. #OlderSiblingPrivilege)
But like I said, I was sent there with the particular point to try to get further integration started, while all the other Black families lived in the school’s registration zone. Now, this was no Little Rock Nine, Central High School situation for me by any means. There was no National Guard. We didn’t run a gauntlet of frothing racists just to enter the school. There was no protesting or news coverage. There wasn’t much hubbub. In fact, the grand majority of the kids and families in my same grade were great. We’d play together, go to each others houses, ride bikes, go to birthday parties…all that. (Coincidentally, I saw the parents of one of my classmates from back there less than a week ago as they were leaving Starbucks. We talked for a while and took pictures.)
But let’s not forget, this was still America, and it was still the 70s. And it was less than 10 years since open housing came to University City (the first in the state of Missouri). So there were still some parents (and maybe teachers too) that were “less than happy” that there were Black kids showing up and they certainly infected their kids with their toxic beliefs. For some reason, it seemed like the worst of those kids would decide to say stuff either in the boys’ bathroom or on the playground. I can still hear in my head to this day the sing-song taunting from some young clown in a crowd if there was any sort of interracial kid tension or physical conflict going on, “It’s a fight; it’s a fight; it’s a n****r and a white!” #Charming
These particular incidents weren’t frequent, but they did happen. And I know that Chris had to fight more than I did, by far. But we were, like every one else, different people. We dealt with situations in slightly different ways AND we found ourselves meshing with other kids on different levels and in different ways. I tended to just walk away from the unnamed idiots and never deal with them again, where Chris would be more “hands on” with his reactions. And since we were in different classes most of the time, I’d mostly hear about Chris’ run-ins after the fact, and mostly via a third party. I don’t remember us two talking about these things much directly, but we definitely knew that we both had them going on. We were little kids, remember. But I certainly believed what Chris had to say when we did mention it, and I never blamed him for reacting the way he did.
But I chose this way more pleasant picture to represent the time that Chris and I did spend together because, beginning in second grade, the soccer field was the place that we absolutely interacted the most (other than, allegedly, against Cara’s toys). I think that for the whole run of our team being together (outdoor soccer from 2nd to 5th grade and indoor soccer from 6th through 8th grade), it was either Chris or I that scored the most goals on the team. We weren’t the fastest kids (early days, Grant Walkup (not pictured) was the fastest by far), but we did put the ball through the posts more than anyone else. In our younger years for several seasons, I think I scored just barely more than Chris and I remember keeping a tally sheet on the door of my room with the goal count of Chris and I for the year. But as we got older and my “Super Toe” days waned, Chris would start to eek out more goals. And while I leaned in more toward my dorky/space/science interests late in middle school, Chris got better and better at soccer, and went on to be REALLY good!
But before we stopped being on the same team and in the same school district once I continued on to U. City High, we both spent so much time on the team loving our roles. We both competed hard. We needed to beat our Delmar-Harvard rivals more than anyone else. We LOVED it when we got to play night games under the lights at Heman Park. We couldn’t have been happier when we actually got to play one of our indoor games at The Checkerdome Arena and then watch the St. Louis Steamers professional MISL team play after us and meet Carl Rose and Slobo Ilijevski. And we always looked forward to the end-of-the-season pizza parties at Mama Talayna’s or Empanadas.
We did that thing then, we did it well, and we handled our business…both at school and on the soccer pitch.
Again, after soccer in the early 80s, we didn’t see each other much. But, in my mind, the die had been cast. Chris and the Reedys felt like extended family members. Our families knew each other, and when we did see each other, it was like hanging with cousins. And in my New York City years, I was in The City at the same time as Cara. I certainly feel like I’d mentally moved on from the “she-said-I-broke-her-toys” older brother’s friend role to the role of “mess-with-her-and-there-will-be-severe-consequences” older brother’s friend role with her. (Not that Cara can’t fight for her self BY A LONG SHOT. There’s way more fight in her than in most humans. But she already knows IF she does need it….).
But to know now that Chris is no longer with us and gone too soon is just a stunner. It hits at my foundation. It churns up all sorts of elemental memories and feelings. It makes me feel…well…not great at all…just like all throughout this pandemic. I’ve had 5 family deaths happen during this last 18 months (not all due to COVID), and I might as well add Chris’ passing to the list. Because in the same way that the aunts and uncles that have gone on in the last year and a half weren’t a constant, everyday physical presence in my life, they were always there…and so was Chris.
Rest easy, Chris. You are and will be missed.