My name is Janice. I am 12, nearly 13. It may not seem like much to you but I like to think I’m pretty grown up. No more Mrs. “Ratchit” the baby sitter. I’m in charge of my own self. At least till Dad comes home.
My dad is Edward. We live on Maple St just off 63rd. He delivers bread. He likes the smells.
It’s not a bad street. Dad says a neighborhood is what you make it. Don’t know if it’s true or not, but I like to pretend my dad’s sayings are like gold, or precious stones. Rubies maybe. He’s not always right, but he wants to be. He’s nearly perfect.
I’m right now in my room which I share with my favorite doll, Essie. She’s sorta frayed. But I love her still. She listens and agrees with everything I say. Never talks back. Essie is kinda dark, like me. Her hair is a bit frizzed, like mine. Though dad is white, I’m still a black person. Mom was real dark, an Ethiopian princess, says dad. Ethiopia, that’s in Africa near the top.
Dad just got me a big world map for my room. He says it’s time I got some pers…pective It’s like now I have a world view. Germany is soo small. Do they know?
I see Iran on the map. That’s where my best friends’ family is from. Her name is Naldi, He skin is kinda like mine, but creamier. Her eyes are big and brown. They’re like ….those dials on old time radios. Yeah, the girl is always trying to tune in.
She just started wearing her head scarf, the hijab, she says it’s because she will soon be a woman. So will I then. She says in the old days girls were of marrying age when they were 13. Yuch! Can you imagine?
I was very young when mom died. I don’t remember her much. Though I can still smell her…..aroma? It was……a scent all her own, with a bit of cinnamon. I remember her lap so warm and soft. The safest place in the world. When things are bad…..like with the lying Mrs. Ratchit I think of myself there, safe and in a land of truth….that would be Mom’s arms cuddled on her lap and the smell of her. Better than aspirin. Better than warm milk with cocoa. She had no family. She was a refugee. So I have no aunts and uncles or grandparents to spoil me. Dad says I’m better for it. What else is he gonna say?
Now Dad, he’s got a boat load of relatives. I’ve met many. Though to most I’m like a surprise. They warm up after awhile. But it’s too late. I know I’m odd. Are they trying to pretend I’m white? A few of my cousins are not bad. It’s just that they are on the other side of dumb.
Grandmother dotes (?) on me when we’re alone but not in public. I think she would feel more comfortable if I were on a leash. Grandpop says there was another black in the family way back when…….but why? They are no good to me now. I wonder, would they feel better If I wore a sign, “Ed’s mistake”…questions answered. Watch out folks, here comes the error.
What is the word? Mystified! That’s it. They were all mystified by mom. She was better looking. A goddess. I think they were afraid of her. Everyone looks kinda funny when they talk about her. Grandmother and Grandpop are sorta ugly. Not a nice thing to say? Truth hurts. The folks have got some serious warts and spots. But I love them anyway, I guess.
Some day I will look like mom and I will be a queen from a far a- way land……..and get rid of the leash. I will be superior, but nice. And treat them as I do all my subjects. Haha.
I have a few pictures of mom. They are in a special place that only Naldi knows. Well maybe Dad. I take them out and study them, then I look at myself in the mirror. I try to see the princess in me. Not this gangly, skinny half-n-half.
I am all knees and elbows. And feet, they are huuuge. Skis more like.