October 21, 2016

Color Ourselves Into the World

I made paper dolls with the kids this week. For the younger kids we worked on colors and their dolls had Halloween costumes. For the older kids we worked on colors and names of articles of clothing. All of them loved the activity, which surprised me. Mostly because I don't think of 13 and 14 year old boys as liking to color. But they did. And so did the girls. I guess that's why adult coloring books are popular...because everyone likes to color.

I did my best to choose paper dolls that reflect their physical make up. But it was hard. Because the better designs, the simpler designs, the designs that weren't wearing lederhosen (seriously) were of people of northern European descent. Yeah. So not really my demographic. But still the show must go on. So I chose the designs best suited to the lessons needs. Because seriously, kids can color hair any color they want, right? 

Here's the crazy thing...most of the younger kids colored the hair blonde. We had one brunette, one ginger and one scribble monster that was completely black. But the rest colored the doll hair blonde. Seriously. There isn't one blonde in the joint. I've got the lightest skin but even I have dark brown hair.

I asked the girl smiling why she was coloring the doll with blonde hair (as I conspicuously colored mine dark). She told me blonde is beautiful. What?! 

And as I looked around all of the girls were coloring blonde hair. What?! 

I took a brown pencil and colored my skin super light. What's interesting is that it's the most realistic skin coloring I've ever done. I mean I've always used the peach or apricot color for my pictures I shouldn't, though. The super light brown looks more like the real me. So what color do these golden brown-skinned beauties of mine color the skin on their dolls? Peach. WHAT?! 

Whoa. How about we save orange skin tones for Trump and we stick to something more natural? And seriously, the color of their skin is beautiful. Despite my positive example, they colored their dolls using the beautiful colors of their choice. 

Why do we hate our hair, no matter what it looks like? I have straight-ish hair but always slept in curlers as a child and as a teen I always had perms. My sister always got the blonde dolls for Christmas and I got the brunettes/gingers. It probably made life simpler for my parents when there were only two choices in the store. But just once I wanted a blonde doll, too.

About 2% of the world's population is blonde. It's most common in the UK and Scandinavian countries. So why do we idealize blondes as children? Is it because it's what we don't have? I have to admit that as an older teen and young adult I came to embrace my hair. It's a pretty color. It grows quickly. I haven't had a perm in literally 25 years. I don't see myself getting another one for the rest of my life.

With the older children I teach, I also found some of them coloring their dolls more similar to themselves. I like that. To me it shows maturity to accept ourselves as we are. To view ourselves as beautiful. And to color ourselves into the world.

October 9, 2016

Quiet Reflection

I don't know when my parents got old. But they did. Especially my mom. And the majority of my memories of my mom come from when she was my age. What?! How did I get to be so old. Or rather when did my mom start withdrawing into silence when she used to be the life of the party.

Part of me likes being an adult. I'm in the prime of my life. Another part of me longs to be a kid with unlimited access to my mom. It's possible that she'll die while I'm in Brazil. I know life isn't guaranteed and anyone can say that. But my mom's health has deteriorated over the last ten years and it makes me sad. She's not the same as before. She's quiet. Lets my dad do the talking. She moves slowly. And since her broken pelvis from a fall last month she isn't really moving at all these days.

Part of me wants to be with her. Part of me knows that it's too late to change the past. It's not even like I'd change too many things. I've had more time with my mom than my siblings as I've lived in the same city as she has and they're a bit further away. But still...I think what I long for are the days when we would read the same book and have discussions while making dinner. The days when we'd plan a party and the food menu and she and my dad would lead a bunch of teens in games. The literati parties we put on every Christmas for a few years after Sister Womyn Sister days. And sometimes I'd sneak into her bed and we'd just lay there and talk about whatever.

The mother I want to know existed long before I came along. How did her experiences shape her? How did she like motherhood? How did she like marriage? Did she ever have a crisis of faith? When life got hard, how did she cope? Was she happy? Because I don't think I thought about her as a person. She was my mother. And that roll is so powerfully strong that sometimes I think kids forget there's a person underneath.

My mother is a real person. One that my children have many memories of...mostly going over to watch movies and eat caramel popcorn. Because my mom wanted me to go on dates with my husband. I can only assume that she wished she had such a luxury as a young mother. Her four children are within five years of each other. We were very close. And my children are, too....but I one-upped her by having my first five within five years. Ha ha. She knew it was hard. She wanted to have a relationship with my children.

I didn't know my grandparents super well...though I lived with my mom's mom for 3 months after my grandfather died. My mom wanted to be involved in my kids' regular lives and she was. She always made time for grandparents day at school and she and my dad came every year for Veteran's day.

I just don't want to say goodbye. As fantastic as life after death sounds...the reality of the pain of loss and sharpness of grief terrifies me. How did my mom do it when her mother died? What helped her press forward? Those are the questions I want to ask now. To lie in bed and talk about the important things. Our relationships. How to love even when it's hard. How to move forward even when the sugar coated past lulls us reliving our time there.
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