George Washington Prays in the Ladies' Room of Lincoln Lanes Bowling

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Dad got a vein tied off so they could conceive me. The white population grew by one.

In the privacy of his home Dad liked to talk like he was black. “Look at dem bruthas and sistahs!” he said to my pregnant mother as a group of children swarmed to our window.

“D’jou find your names?” he’d ask the kids, opening the door. “Oh, good!.... no? What’s your name? Precious?! I like that! Okay, honey, I’ll make sure you’re on the list next year.”

In our storefront window – a window that once displayed boxes of rice and beans and detergent – stood a life-size Santa Claus, old white man with the bushy eyebrows. Santa wore spectacles and held a quill pen, and when he was plugged in his hand swept slowly up and down his list of neighborhood children, as if considering.

“You better be good. Santa’s still got time to change his mind.” Our mottled sidewalk was host to all kinds of motherly warnings.

Dad took the list downtown to a calligrapher every December to add the new kids’ names, and watched the list evolve from DeVontes, Jos├ęs and Preciouses to Kaitlins, Matthews and Scotts