Friday, October 3, 2008

Wee Winnie Wierdo

Reading about an acquaintance's close encounters with racism in Bulgaria this morning stirred some of my early memories. One, of kids coming up to me or my sister to say "CHING-CHONG CHING-CHONG!" and run away laughing. Sometimes they would stick around to ask me what they had said, with the conviction that it HAD to mean something. Our cousins in Minnesota would do that to us too. After a couple of these episodes, even earnest attempts to learn something from me about my cultural experience seemed vaguely threatening.
Another memory involves a cabbage patch doll I had. It was a love-hate relationship, because they were totally hideous dolls, but my sister was collecting them so competition and convenience of Christmas shopping made them a necessary population in my own toys. One day, I decided to take an ink pen and draw a big red dot on the forehead of my black cabbage patch, Mimi. It looked so pretty! I ran to the bathroom and made one for myself, not as neatly,, Mimi and I had entered new identities! Later, my dad took us to a park, me with my bold new mark. I met a girl at the top of the monkey bars and said, "Do you know why I have this red dot? It's because I'm Indian!" She turned around and walked quickly away. Why wasn't she impressed? I made no further attempts to recruit others to my Indian club, and Mimi went to the Goodwill when we left Indiana. I hope she was adopted. Her dot was really special.

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