Friday, June 24, 2011
When I was 8 years old, I went to a small elementary school in the middle of Oklahoma. To grow up here meant to understand that everyone liked you and was nice...until they found out you were different.
There were only a handful of us – coarse hair, wide noses, slanted eyes, and skin color ranging from olive, to deep, ebony brown. I was somewhere on the lucky side, yet still foolish to think that the other children believed me when I said that I was only darker than them because of how much time my family spent outside. They stared in response, and I felt 5 inches tall.
For the most part I slipped through shadows, and escaped my first few years of school with only a small mess of heartbreak and realization about how cruel human beings truly can be. Ten years old, and I had already been called Nigger twice to my face. The first time, the words stung my skin. I didn’t know what that word meant, but I knew the tone behind it. And at that moment something inside me changed, and for the first time in my young, innocent life, I was made to feel that I wasn’t good enough.
Somewhere on the other end of the most unlucky in our handful, was a little girl. Deep, ebony brown girl. Her hair stood off her head in one puff of a ponytail on the back of her head. Round bottom in leggings, strong legs, and skin so smooth and sable, shining under the fluorescent lights of our grade school cafeteria.
Last night I swung outside with my husband and the night was still, and dark. I closed my eyes and in a flash, 20 years of my past life disappeared into the one memory of this little girl.
“There was this girl I used to go to elementary school with….”
I stopped, my grief, a 50 pound weight in my throat. In the dark, I could see him smiling at me. The moon and stars reflecting off his white grin.
“What is it?“
In my head, I was finding the only words I could put together to explain my memory of her.
”She was only a little girl.”
And in a flood of tears, my words drowned and were lost before they ever left my throat.
She never said one word. The only sound I remember coming from her was muffled cries. She sat in the corner of our lunch room, alone, dark skin shining under the fluorescent lights of the grade school cafeteria. She sucked her thumb, and she cried, and cried, and cried. I will never forget her face, not until the day I die and I am free from the sad memory I have held tight from this little girl.
On her face, were two white, salty streams. Falling from her almond eyes and rolling down her cheeks, she sat in the corner and I stared at her dark, ebony skin. I remember the way those two lines of tears looked, but not much else, anymore. She was just tears, to me.
After that year, I never saw her again. I found my solace in a small group of friends who were like me – the daughter of two college professors, she loved to try our food and play in my Mom’s garden with me. And a little girl, adopted from Korea when she was a baby. We were the lucky ones, we had each other and something about that made us feel a little less different, less odd, and less like the little girl with the dark, ebony skin and white tears.
Over the years my skin grew thick with the exposure to what the world was really like, outside of my own little village. There was no solace or mercy when I walked out the door and away from what I loved. And for years, I was lead to believe that who I was, was not good enough. They like you, until they find out you are different.
One day, Elodie will come home from school with her own streams of salt staining the cheeks of her thin, olive skin. Because someone was prettier than her. Faster, smarter, thinner, braver. Because the boy (or girl) she loves chose somebody else. Leaving her wondering ”What does she have that I don’t?” Because she was left feeling not good enough.
In my moments of quiet reflection, I wish for the strength to put on a brave face and teach her to find her courage to go on, with her head up high and her feet planted strong. Even if it means that after she goes to bed, I will stand over her and drown in my tears – devastated to know that something so innocent and pure has felt pain to this capacity, for the first time. Please let me find that strength.
Tonight, I am left wishing that every Mother, Father, teacher, friend, and peer could see the importance behind teaching kindness.
Tonight, I am left wishing for Elodie’s skin to grow thick, a lot faster than mine ever did.
Tonight... I am wishing for that little girl. Today, she is a woman, almost 30 years old. In my heart, I dream that she has a beautiful little girl with her own skin tone and wild hair. Those strong legs, almond eyes, and only a picture of pure happiness painted across her thick, ebony skin, her white smile will be the only memory of her I will choose to remember.
Happy Friday, friends.
Thank you for your sweet words on Round One of the styleathon, and your concern over the storm.
We have been cleaning up our backyard, and making it feel like home again. Fortunately, my veggie and herb garden, as well as quite a few sunflowers ended up making it through the damage. I'm also happy to report that Michael spotted two of the baby birds last week :) The best news of all. On the sad side, Petey has $3,000 worth of damage! Our poor adventure-wagon.
Leigh is hosting another giveaway for Round Two of the styleathon, and you can visit her to enter for a Sakura Bloom silk sling, and Marla Sielo Wristlet. Follow this link, if you are interested.
We have our Round Two assignments, and I am so excited for this one. We have 350 words to describe why we wear our children, and how baby wearing has affected our lives. How many adjectives can I come up with to fill 350 words about how amazing it is to nurse your baby while you brush your teeth?! :)
Happy weekend, friends. Is there anything you hope to accomplish over this weekend?
We are going to start the hard transition of moving Elodie to her own room, to sleep in her crib. I have a feeling there will be a lot of tears. From ME :)
We are also spending time with family, taking Elodie to one of my childhood watering holes, and I'm going to read up on this blog I came across when searching for Wallflower lyrics from middle school. Random, right? I love the internet for those very reasons.
The words in the photo of the girl came from a song on that blog, and I just so happened to stumble across it this evening as I was putting these words together to put here.
Sometimes I guess the stars and moon align, and we are blessed with tiny reminders of who we are, and who we want to be. Be kind, friends. Our words and actions leave bigger marks than we allow ourselves to think.