Lately I’ve been thinking about my younger days.
See that sweet face? (Yeah, BrightSide, too.) How innocent, how naive…ready to go along to get along, keep the peace, calm the waters no matter what.
Well, lately I’ve been thinking about what I’d tell that 20-something me.
Bear and I used to read The Colors of Us by Karen Katz together. She’d ask to hear it almost every day.
“My name is Lena, and I am seven.
I am the color of cinnamon.
Mom says she could eat me up.”
Lena wanted to paint a picture of herself, but her mom pointed out that brown isn’t merely brown. Bear would ooh and aah as she turned the pages, absorbing the medley of shades in Lena’s neighborhood.
The children’s picture book took a simple approach, describing each character’s skin tone as something the main character understood…french toast, honey, butterscotch, peanut butter, chocolate cupcakes, nutmeg. Bear would point excitedly at a page and name someone she knew who looked like that. She never tired of naming which skin tone was hers, and it was her favorite game to match people we knew to characters in the book.
The book’s message is clear: brown is not simply brown. Brown is a palette. Brown is beautiful in a hundred ways.
It’s been years since I watched Whoopi Goldberg’s “long blond hair” segment in her stand up routine, but it’s something I’ve never forgotten. Whoopi plays a young black girl who dreams of being white. She drapes an old white skirt over her head, smoothing it as if stroking her luxurious hair. The character wistfully hopes to become white with long, blond hair so she can appear on The Love Boat.
The implications are clear: beauty is measured by a white world’s standards, and those standards are what you aspire to if you want the American Dream.
While we talk a good game about diversity in American culture – models of all shapes, sizes, and colors; movie roles for minorities; increased visibility for people of color on television – you can’t expect the tide to recede just like that. It took a long time to shape our culture, and it won’t change back overnight.
Writing a stream of consciousness birthday post was so much fun I thought we’d roll with it for Forever Family. (I first stumbled across this concept over at The Captain’s Speech. Paul’s sharp wit keeps me in giggles – you should check out his blog.)
So buckle up and let’s go.
Celebrations are powerful, especially for children. They don’t understand I’m not really up for Christmas this year or let’s just let this birthday pass quietly. They understand the inherent joy in special days, and they’re drawn to reveling in them. They’re children, after all, even after they’ve morphed into bigger bodies, and if we’re lucky they haven’t lost the magic in marking milestones with joy.
Which has made this past year somewhat difficult for me.
We’ve been off the grid so I’ll be flying by the seat of my pants for this week’s Forever Family. A bit of stream of consciousness thinking, if you will. Bear with me.
We love Christmas.
BrightSide hangs wreaths on the front of the house every year. We light them with spotlights in the evening, washing the whole house in a Christmas glow, and it’s quite a sight when we return after dark to a home bathed in the spirit of the season.
Pretty white lights are tucked into our Christmas tree, spiraling upward toward the ceiling. Bright red bows add splashes of color while years of ornaments pepper the branches high and low. Ones I’ve hung since my own childhood, ones from my teaching years, ones for T-man and Bear. Our tree is one long memory walk…my eyes flit from branch to branch, remembering family celebrations and mom’s crafts and the small gold angel my own grandma gave me years ago.
BrightSide has the honor of adding our angel to the top. (Translation: no one’s crazy enough to think me tottering at the top of a ladder to balance the angel is a good idea.) She’s serene and seems to emanate kindness with her gaze, and our tree never quite seems complete until she’s looking down over our family.
It was the most overpriced dinner ever. I typically avoid buffets because I can’t shake the feeling my inability to eat large amounts in short periods of time makes me the person who covers the quadruple plate crowd’s cost. And while buffets seem like the perfect solution for a picky eater, Bear actually needs less choices, not more. $20 for 2 egg rolls, 4 fries, 2 bites of chicken, 1 bite of the other chicken, 2 cubes of jello, and a cup of ice cream made my eyes roll back in my head.
It may have been her discarded plate with bread that “has some kind of sauce on it” and “the thing that just looks weird” that knocked this place permanently off my list.
Then again, the company was perfect.