Y’all, I have always owned this dresser, from the time I was a little girl until now. It came from some relative before that.
And when I was cleaning it out yesterday, I found an old coloring book of mine. Along with my college diploma. And some Barbie pajamas.
Which I kept.
You know, just in case Barbie comes over to visit and realizes she forgot hers at home.
I can even remember when I acquired said Barbie pajamas. I was in Kindergarten. I had a Malibu Barbie and a Malibu Christie and there was a church bazaar in which one of the parishoners was selling home-made Barbie clothes. Mom bought me this nightie and two dresses, both sleeveless ballgowns with slight empire waists with sequins around the waist. One was satin green and the other was velvet black.
Barbie wore whatever, but that black dress was Christie’s. Even if she wore other stuff, like her yellow swimsuit, I always put her back in that black velvet gown before I put her away.
It’s funny what you remember your earliest lessons about race being. I remember being about that age and driving with my Grandma A. by a school in Battle Creek just as it let out and as all those black kids were rushing out to get home, my Grandma said, “Aren’t they beautiful? Like God’s Hershey Kisses.”
Which, I have to tell you, makes me cringe to repeat it to you here. But it stuck with me because my parents didn’t really talk about race. My dad had black minister friends and we played with their kids, but there weren’t any black people in the towns we lived in and the general consensus among the adults and kids in those communities (with exceptions, obviously) was that black people were Not Like Us. They were ugly and animalistic and dangerous and stupid, but more athletic. And so on. You know. I don’t have to tell you.
I quickly got that how my parents felt about black people was weird and not something you really mentioned.
But when my grandma, who I adored, just openly said, where other white people might hear her, stuff about black people like that they are beautiful, it just blew my mind.
It still does, when I think about it, but for different reasons. I mean, it’s not radical–in fact, it’s kind of condescending–to call a whole group of people “beautiful.” So, what I tend to mull over now, when I think about it, is my shock and my delight and my relief.
Because, what it meant for me, as a little girl, was that I knew then that I didn’t have to leave Malibu Christie, with her beautiful black velvet dress, at home if I wanted to bring my Barbies to Grandma’s house.
Which wasn’t the case if I wanted to bring my Barbies other places.
I don’t remember, though, how I came to that conclusion–that there were just some places you couldn’t take Malibu Christie–but even by the time I was five or six, I knew it.
Edited to Add: Hey, I’m not the only one mulling over Christie. Mine had a yellow bathing suit, though.