Page 110 - November 2020
P. 110

                                                                                       November 2020

                                           An inconvenient guest – A Rude Awakening

               I was so proud of my little black doll and guarded it jealously. When a few months
               after I started attending school the opportunity came to show it off, I could hardly
               contain  my  excitement.    On  the  last  day  before  the  Christmas  holidays,  it  was
               customary for the teachers to allow students to bring a toy to school and play with it
               part of the day. It was an all-girls school, and most of my classmates had brought
               dolls. That it was an all-whites school didn’t occur to me until much later. After all, I
               came from an all-white country.

               I couldn’t wait to flaunt my African doll. When the time came to take it out, all eyes
               riveted on the only black-faced doll in the room, studying it with intense curiosity. I
               was so proud to see the awe in my classmates’ eyes, and what could only be envy.
               The teacher, too, was staring.

               “Where did you get that doll?” she asked, approaching my desk.

               “I . . . my aunt in Italy gave it to me,” I stammered in my still very broken English.

               She had the most unusual expression on her face. I waited to see her glowing smile
               of  admiration,  but  it  didn’t  come.  Instead,  her  lips  puckered  up  in  a  disapproving
               pout. I jumped when she held out her hands, and I clutched my doll closer to my
               chest. I didn’t understand what she said then, but she looked at me as if she didn’t
               believe me. My desk companion, the daughter of Italian immigrants like me, leaned

               over and murmured in Italian: “She’s asking if she can borrow your doll.”

               My earlier excitement bubbled up to the surface again. She did love my doll, after
               all, and wanted to borrow it. With a little trepidation I placed it in her waiting hands.
               When she turned and marched out the door my heart raced. Had I misunderstood
               the teacher’s reaction? Had she not liked my doll and was going to toss it out?
               As everyone returned to their respective games I was on the verge of tears, certain I
               was never going to see my doll again. A few minutes later the teacher returned and
               handed me back the doll. “The headmistress said you can keep it, but only if you
               put it away and don’t bring it to school again.”
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