The two mothers are animated; one
uses her hands to gesticulate, while the other’s rhythmic accent pauses only
for laughter.On one side of the living
room there is a large multi paned window.It looks out onto the backyard and a winter scene.It is the middle of the season, and several
heavy snowfalls have already taken place.It suits the New Hampshire terrain which, during spring and summer, is
always lush and beautiful, but because it is not covered in snow, somehow unreal.The teenage girl stands by the window.She hears the talk of the two women, one of whom is her mother, but she
does not follow the conversation.Inside
her head it is blank; she has no thoughts.So, momentarily, the girl is at peace.
her mother calls her over.Come, the
laughing mother says, sit with us and chat.
The girl continues
to stand at the large picture window, looking out onto the cold white snow;
iridescent, glimmering, so perfect it could almost be a fairytale.An imaginary place of warmth.
Next to the other woman
is a young girl of about ten, and besides the young girl is her younger
brother.He sits by his sister and
mother listening to the grownup talk, but he watches the girl by the window,
sees her turn and walk over to the group, a smile across her face that may, or
may not be real.
If the teenage
girl were actually a huge, skinny, green praying mantis, the boy’s expression
would contain just as much wonder, for he has been surrounded by soft, pale
skin and silken light brown hair for most of his nine years.
The older girl is
closer to the couch now.Her eyes search
out a place upon the sofa.Will she sit
on the side of her mother by the fire, or in between the two women?There is always space near the children.Instead, she picks a solitary chair and
slumps into it.Her long slim, brown
legs stretch out before her.Carefully,
she arranges the unruly appendages and creates a picture her mother and the
world would be pleased to see.She
smiles as she does so.
The boy is too
young to realize what it is he’s doing, loving the strange brown skinned girl
sitting before him who is too old for his world and still too young for hers.
The eyes of the
girl are darker than his brown eyes.He
talks to her, says a shy word in response to his mother’s conversation that
attempts to include them all.His mother
smiles.Her face is round and soft.There are faint lines under her eyes that
deepen and release when she smiles.His
mother’s face is beautiful to him, as is the older girl’s, but in a different
way.This is only the second time the
boy has seen the older girl.His mother
laughs.“Go get the Christmas gift your
brother gave you,” she says to her ten year old daughter.Dutifully, the little girl rises, exiting the
room.When she returns, she holds the
doll out before her.All eyes are
focused on it, so no one sees the flash of recognition in the teenage girl’s
The Black Barbie
doll rests sideways in the pink palms of the little girl.“It’s her first Black Barbie,” her mother
says.And that is how the child holds
it, unsure, wondering, careful.The
older girl looks at the doll, and then she looks at the little boy.She knows she is the reason for its purchase,
can imagine the boy walking through the toy store with his mother, raising his
hand and pointing to the brown skinned doll with curling black hair, wearing a
red dress.“How beautiful!” the teenage
girl’s mother exclaims, the hue of her own skin that of the doll’s.The young girl smiles and then leaves to take
her doll back into her bedroom.Now the
adult conversation resumes, another cup of hot tea is requested, but the
teenage girl looks at the young boy.He
stares at her shyly, innocent, yet with the impulse of an explorer setting off
into the unknown.She is forced to blink
her eyes rapidly for a few seconds, displacing the display of emotion.That he is just a child does not matter, what
does is that someone has seen her and the young woman feels less alone.