A Lesson In, Uh, Civil Rights?

The Story of Ruby Bridges

Last night I read a book to Annika on civil rights called, The Story of Ruby Bridges. It’s an elementary version of school integration about a 6-year-old girl, one of the first black children to go to school in white school.

The story details a mild version of the girl who was honored to be the first black child in her all-white school.

I had been given the book as a gift and wasn’t sure that Annika was ready for it, but when we moved, she found it sticking out of a box and insisted on reading it. We’ve been reading it for the past four nights, every night.

I have finally come to the conclusion that most books should not be edited much since she will mostly tell me when she doesn’t like something. Knowing my own curious nature, I understand the need to explore things that are uncomfortable.

So, I read the book about a 6-year-old, (in my head screaming, “Oh my god, she’s a baby! How could her parents make her go through this??!!”) walking through an angry mob of white people angry that this child is going to “their” neighborhood school, while being guarded by armed federal police.

Ruby spends the day all alone in her school room, with her teacher, Mrs. Henry, who wonders how this child is so calm in the face of such adversity.

She's been a reader from the beginning.

As I’ve read this book over the past few nights, tonight, I decided to ask Annika what she thought of the book. Before I did, however,¬† about halfway through, she stopped me and asked me, “Mama, what’s a mob?”

I explained in small detail that its a crowd of people who are usually angry about something.

Then at the end of the book, I finally say, after wondering what she’s thought of the book all week, “Do you have any questions about this story?”

And she says to me, “Why is the teacher’s name Henry?”

50 Hairs of Gray

My gray hairs.

Lately I’ve been having this sort of love affair with my strands of gray hairs that keep popping up all throughout my hair.

Yeah, I said it. I like my gray hairs. In fact, I’ve been having this inner debate about whether or not to color my hair this fall because, I don’t want to cover them up. The rest of my hairs, I have no problem with changing the color. But I am enjoying my tiny little streaks of gray and I want to keep them. Don’t bother suggesting that I streak gray on top of hair color. I’m way too lazy for that. And cheap. Anyway, I can’t imagine the conversation I’d have with a stylist if I went into a salon and asked them to color my hair and then streak it gray.

Stylist: Sooo, let me get this straight, you want me to color your hair and then add the gray back in?

Me: That’s right.

Stylist: Uhhhhh, well, you know, most women prefer to cover up their gray.

Me: I’m not most women.

Stylist: Well, you know, gray makes you look older.

Me: I’m okay with that.

Stylist: Is this some sort of fucking joke? Am I being pranked?

Me: No, I like my gray hair. It took me many years of waiting to grow this gray hair in and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give it up.

Stylist: Picks up phone, calls local loony bin.

I’ve always liked gray hair. When I was a teenager, we had a neighbor in her early 20s who had a streak of gray along her widow’s peak. I admired it greatly and wished for one of my own.

There’s this notion in our culture that aging is a bad thing, but really, only for women. If you think about it, it’s one of the most misogynistic myths perpetuated throughout our culture. Women of all races, sexual orientations, classes, we all are supposed to hate our aging skin, our aging hair, our aging bodies. Men, on the other hand, are allowed to look distinguished with their graying hairs and paunches. Wrinkles make some men look esteemed. On women, they just look saggy.

I was standing outside of Annika’s school recently, and I mentioned to a couple of moms with gray streaks in their hair that I liked their gray.

They both rolled their eyes slightly and laughed, the telling sign that they hated their grays.

“Oh, but it ages you,” said one of them to me stressing the dirty word.

And it’s not that I want to look older. I would love it if I was one of those women who aged more gracefully. But I’m not. I’ve always looked my age and I’m under no illusion that it’s suddenly going to change as I approach middle age. I’m not going to go running out and start spending tons of money on wrinkle cream and expensive dye jobs that will stave off my age as the years creep along.

But really, it’s not the age factor, I just like the way gray hair looks. You know that cliche, “good things come to those who wait?” Well, to me, gray hair is like the icing on the cake of age. Hey, maybe you’re old and wrinkly, but at least you get to have this fabulous gray hair!

Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I will do those streaks. I think I’ve earned them.

Pee Cycle River In My Soul

Annika’s started doing that thing where she mistakes song lyrics with things that make more sense to her 4-year-old brain. The most epic is the title of this post. From the song, Peace Like a River, which her school has rehashed slightly to make their school song, Annika sings loudly, “I’ve got PEE CYCLE RIVER IN MY SOULLLLLL!”

I ignored it for a while until it occurred to me that if one of her classmates heard her singing it wrong, they might laugh at her. So I gently asked her if she didn’t think it might be Peace Like a River.

No, she told me in no uncertain terms that her lyrics were right. Her teachers had taught the song to her and that’s how they sing it.

Well, she corrected herself, perhaps it’s, Peace Cycle River. Yeah. That sounds good.

Then she showed me with her body that the movements of the song were to close your eyes and press against your chest, that means Peace. Then you move your arms slowly through the rest of the lyrics with Cycle River.

Makes total sense.

I’ve always loved when kids make up their own lyrics. Years ago, one of my favorites from a friend’s son was that he had Ant in His Pants from the Eminem Song “My Band.”

He justified it from the video where Eminem is grabbing his crotch. His mom and I could really see where he got it and with Eminem, well, he does kind of dance like he’s got ants in his pants. My Pants, My Pants, My Pants, I’ve Got Ants in My Pannnts! Yeah.

So, I’ve been wondering if I should correct her. I am not a big fan of over correcting kids. I like for Annika to figure things out for herself. I think things stick when people think things through. And too much correcting can make people paranoid when they do make a mistake.

Imho, it’s one of the ills of our society, that somehow a mistake or a misspoken word makes you less of a human being. Less important. Less valuable.

I think it’s just the opposite. I tell Annika that mistakes mean we’re learning something new. And that’s always a good thing.

Moving Here, Moving There, Moving, Moving Everywhere

I have moved way too many times in my life. If I don’t count all the times I moved back and forth and in and out of my parents house from dorm rooms and apartments during my late teens and early 20s, I’ve moved somewhere between 20-25 times. That includes two international moves and two cross country moves as an adult.

Every time I move I swear I’ll do better. I’ll be more organized. I’ll pack up more ahead of time. I’ll declutter more before I move. I’ll throw out things I’m saving for sentimental reasons that aren’t really sentimental.

But I never really do those things. I hem. I haw. I get boxes and pack up a few. Then I procrastinate. I throw away a few things and then call it a day.

When moving day finally comes, I am usually still throwing things into boxes and praying that nothing breaks. Happens every time.

The best moves I ever made was when I was married to a military guy and the U.S. government paid other people to come pack us up and move all our stuff for us. You are forced to be organized when someone else is about to come into your house and pack up anything that isn’t tacked down, literally.

So last week we moved into a duplex near Toyin. We are literally three houses down from him. Annika thinks that she will be allowed to just run back and forth in between our houses. Ha!

But, it will be, and so far has been, nice to be close enough to him that they can see each other for more brief snippets in between their regular visits.

I am hoping that this is my second to last move of my life. I am looking into buying a house over the next year and hope that it will be my final resting place. I suppose when I’m old, I might be moved into a facility or perhaps go live with Annika and her family. But by then, I probably won’t do much of my own moving.

Mostly, when I have moved, I’ve usually looked forward to it. I enjoy getting out of a place and exploring a new one.

I was really looking forward to moving this time. At least, I was looking forward to moving out of my old place. For the past three years, Annika and I have lived in a tiny apartment. No yard. No storage. Too close to too many neighbors. We were on top of each other all the time. And while our new place is roomier, and I’m glad to be here, it’s been a bittersweet move. Because really, in all honesty, what I really want is my own house. I want Annika to have a childhood home. And so far, she hasn’t really had that.

See, we’ve lived in, now, four homes just since she’s been born. Add on top of that the two places Toyin has lived without us and she’s had six places to live in, in the past four years.

It’s very backwards from what I grew up with. Annika has moved more times in her four year life than I did in the first sixteen years of my life.

Overall I don’t think it’s been detrimental to her. She has barely been affected by this move. I thought she would become clingier and fearful for a little while after the move. But it’s been the opposite. She actually seems energized by it all.

But I’m finally at a stage in my life where I am ready for the moving to just be done. So done.