I was quite the naïve child. I didn’t know that THEN, of course, but looking back, I totally was. My parents did a pretty good job raising me. My father was far too strict with some things, but he was doing what he thought was right at the time. He tells me now that he can see how he was too hard on me. But that’s ANOTHER therapy session.
Growing up, I do not recall my parents being politically outspoken, religiously outspoken or prejudiced. I grew up thinking the world was totally cool, totally normal everywhere. I remember when I was in the 4th grade and asking my mother what an abortion was. Funny, I don’t remember the conversation, but it was in the news ALL THE TIME, so I asked. I may have to ask her if she remembers her answer to me.
Anyway, in the 4th grade, I had a slumber party for my birthday…..what, probably 10 in 4th grade? I had several classmates over, including my friend Lavania. Lavania always ran her hand from the top of my head to my middle back…over my hair…..ALWAYS commenting on how soft it was. I would barely run a brush through the mop of hair…I didn’t care about hair…….I didn’t understand why she thought it was interesting. But as long as we were friends, I didn’t care if she liked my hair……or touched my hair…..I just liked being with her.
Anyway, my grandparents were also at my house for a visit at my birthday. They helped mom corral us little squealing girls. At some point I opened presents, and we were going to change into our jammies. Lavania forgot her jammies, so I gave her my brand new nightgown. Right out of the plastic……..I had other jammies, since this was my house, so who CARED if she wore my new ones? I certainly didn’t!!
Lavania’s mom drove by and brought her daughter her own jammies. We immediately changed, and I took my new gown from her and put IT on, and she put her own on……..we were cool….a bunch of squealy girls in our jammies.
Apparently, my grandmother was not as excited. You see, Lavania was black. Apparently my grandma had a real problem with me putting on the same gown that she’d just taken off………I didn’t know this until years later. My mom handled it. I didn’t even know my grandparents were PREJUDICED until I was in college and got to hear my grandpa spout off about the how the world was crumbling due to all the crime caused by blacks.
I argued and argued and argued with him…..thinking he’d CERTAINLY begin to understand my position. Finally Mr. P…who was my ‘boyfriend’ at the time made me realize that all the arguing in the world would never change my grandparents view. Never. I was crushed.
Now, I adore my grandparents. They are still living…grandpa will be 92 next week and he’s quite a pistol. To this day, I’ve never been brave enough to try to bring up race with them again.
My dad is politically conservative……and somewhat homophobic and a tiny bit racist. I was FLOORED when I was old enough to realize it. My mother is very religious. Who knew?
I am not religious, I am more liberal in my politics, I am not prejudiced ( I hope), and I am not homophobic. I think my parents did a MARVELOUS job of managing to keep me out of the fray of politics and religion. Letting me make up my OWN mind about things. And accepting me and loving me despite my adult disagreements with some of their ways of life.
I don’t know if me being naïve was a product of parenting, or just my nature, and I didn’t see what was right in front of me. Either way, neither of them forced their ‘will’ onto me and I am forever grateful to them for that.
I hate that my grandparents are racist. But I love them, so that is a part of them I have to accept, despite my complete offense to that mindset. I have no idea how I grew up as closely with them and didn’t realize it until college.
My mom told me the story about Lavania, and it broke my heart. It still does. Why in the world should it matter if two little girls share a nightgown? We weren’t dirty, we weren’t infected with chicken pox, and little girls share clothing, hair accessories and the like ALL THE TIME. I can’t imagine why in the world anyone would think it was wrong to switch jammies. It’s heartbreaking.
I thank my mom in my head all the time for not allowing that negativity to seep into my party. We didn’t know there was any dissent in the family…and I forever appreciate that. And my naivety continued on into my adulthood. I didn’t realize the ‘hair’ issue between African American and Caucasian individuals…………now I know that Lavania really did like my hair, and probably wished hers was more like it. I don’t remember for sure, but I imagine probably wishing my hair could be put up in some braids and left ALONE………I didn’t want to mess with long hair………ugh……..now as an adult, I see there was a lot more too it.
So, internet, take some time to look around you and appreciate others for who they are. Let your kids find their OWN way in the political/racial world, and leave the negativity out of your teachings………I am so happy my own parents did.
And, Lavania? I think of you all the time, and wonder who you are today, and if you have kids, a husband, a wife…….where you work………I just wish you knew how much of an impact you had on my life.
Happy Friday, everyone!!