When I was about three, I asked my mom and dad for a black baby doll for an upcoming birthday present. I had see the commercials for a black cabbage patch doll, and I desperately wanted her.
My mom happened to casually mention this to one of our neighbors at the time. Said neighbor was shocked, and appalled, telling my mom she shouldn't buy it for me because it would "give me the wrong idea". I'm not exactly sure what my mom's response to this, but I'm going to guess it was an eye roll.
I got the doll. And I loved her just as much, if not more, than my other dolls. I'm not even sure if I named her, but I pretty much named all of my dolls Emily, so we'll go with that. This is Emily and I.
Years later my mom told me the story about our neighbor and I felt my veins fill with rage. The wrong idea? What exactly does that mean?
Because I have always been under the impression that each of us are created equal, no matter the color of our skin. That not one of us is better than the other. That we were placed on this earth to love and accept one another. Just as shocked as this neighbor was that I would want a black baby doll, I was shocked that she cared, or that it mattered at all.
I'm still shocked. I can feel myself getting angry as I sit and type this now. I was born in 1987, so this whole situation went down in the early 90's. THE EARLY 90'S! Racism was that strong in my very own neighborhood in the early 90's! And even today, is still exists. I still hear comments about race, religion, equality, almost every single day. When is it going to stop?
Maybe it's just me, but that's just not how my parents raised me. I was kind and loving to everybody. So wanting a black baby doll meant nothing special to me. I just wanted to play with her.
This past Holiday weekend my parents were doing their big summer cleaning. Every year they clean out every closet, cupboard, drawer, and bookshelf. They donate unwanted items to food banks and Salvation Army stores. I got a text from my mom on Thursday that they were on my room. The text read something like
We're doing a room to room. Yours is next! Everything must go!
In a quick panic, I texted her back Don't get rid of any pictures or yearbooks! As the queen of nostalgia, my pictures, yearbooks, and boxes of letters are very important to me.
Later that day, she called to tell me their progress. "Oh, and we put all your dolls in a bag to give a way".
"NOT MY BLACK BABY DOLL!" I yelped.
She laughed, and sent my dad to go save my doll from the bag. I didn't care if they got rid of every other doll (well, besides my American Girl Dolls), but they could NOT get rid of her. She's way too special to me.
I was at my parents house this weekend to seek out the damage. Upon walking in my room, there was my doll, perched up on my bed, in the exact outfit you see her in the picture above- an old, ratty pink onesie with a hood. (Pacifier is gone, tho). And, at almost 26 years old, I grabbed her and hugged her, tightly, and proceeded to take a nap with her in my arms.
I know. Creepy.
But I love that doll. And instead of leaving her at my parents house, I brought her back to my house with me.
Sam took a picture to prove it.
I know. Also creepy.
I guess she serves as a reminder of my childhood, and of my parents. Of standing up against hate. She is a reminder of the gratitude I have for God for putting love and acceptance in my heart at such a young age.
I know I said I don't remember if I named her, but I'm just gonna go with Emily. And I'll never get rid of her.
To our neighbor who thought I'd get the "wrong idea": I certainly hope that you have opened your mind a little bit more. And if the "wrong idea" means you were worried I'd grow up to be accepting of people of other colors, well, you were right. But I'm pretty damn proud of that.