Three of these kids belong together, three of these kids are kind of the same. But one of these kids is doing his own thing……Which of these kids is doing his own thing? Now its time to play our game.
Props to Sesame Street for playing a major role in the development of millions of children worldwide! But why was she doing her own thing? Don’t you want answers?
For the majority of my 39 years I have had an overwhelming feeling of not belonging. I was born in Liverpool, England to a half Nigerian mother and a Barbadian father. Even my birth in Liverpool was accidental, the result of my mother’s illness and an unplanned return from Barbados to her native UK.
I spent my early childhood bouncing between Barbados and England. As children are impressionable, this meant my accent changed with each move but not before my family noticed that I was different. Then came the move that would (mis)shape my entire life, a one-way flight to Boston, Massachusetts. Here there was no family who knew or cared to understand the cultural nuances of my background. There were just Americans who expected that I be American. But what the hell does that mean?
My mum certainly didn’t know and the result of that ignorance was several fashion faux pas that still wake me from my slumber in sweat. Our first summer in Boston I was enrolled in summer camp with the other neighbourhood children. On Independence Day, Mummy decided it was best to dress me in red, white and blue in honour of our new country and mother-land. Little was my well-intentioned mother to know that we were in the ‘hood where no one gave a damn about July 4th except to light some illegal fireworks and eat hot dogs on a cheap red and black grill. I was teased from the morning I got on the school bus until the point of drop off and I had no snazzy comeback because I was in a short set resembling a sailor. A chunky little black girl with an English accent dressed as the American flag. Inside I was crushed because I thought everyone would be donning their patriotic duds only to the be the lonely limey on the bus in tears.
I believe it was the autumn of that same year and I was adamant I join tap dancing class. Savion Glover had been receiving a lot of publicity at the time and it became my obsession. I was shuffle, hop, stepping all over my great-uncle’s house. After much harassment I wore Mummy down. She bought the tap shoes and enrolled me in classes at our local YMCA. Looking back, she probably didn’t have the money to but I mithered her into maternal guilt. I went to classes and quite enjoyed it. Fast forward to first recital. Our teacher asked that we wear black leotards. I am not sure if it was a budgetary issue or Mummy Reds thought it was particularly cute but she bought me a Care Bears leotard instead. It was pink with suspenders. Let me paint you a picture. I was the fattest child in tap class. And now I am front and at least not so centre in a pink and white CARE BEARS leotard. I recall feeling awful. If black cheeks could blush, I probably would have looked like a tomato. Mummy was so filled with pride though. She had the widest smile watching her fat, pink daughter in the sea of black leotards. To this day, I cannot listen to The Bengals Walk Like an Egyptian which was the song played during that recital. Needless to say, I never returned to tap class (and a long history of quitting commenced).
In Barbados my dad played a few sports quite regularly – Football (Soccer if you’re American), Cricket, and most of all Road Tennis. Road Tennis is a game indigenous to Barbados where tennis is often times played in the street. And this is not a trivial sport for giggles. It is taken very seriously. In the United States, in Boston, in the Hyde Park (the Middle Class ‘hood) no one cared about the provenance of this sport. They just saw Daddy and his friends being foreigners doing foreigner things. They built a court out of wood and placed it in front of our house. They served blue Wilson balls for hours and lifted up the court when cars wanted to pass. This was NOT normal. And certainly wasn’t normal in America where Bajans (Barbadians) account for .1% of the population. Add a leather hat and a gold tooth to the Road Tennis playing dad and you earn yourself the coconut label for greater part of your childhood. I quite enjoy that label now but back then I just wanted a dad who looked like Cliff Huxtable and didn’t drive a bright green Toyota Cressida with gold rims <insert cringe emoji here>.
These and some other not-so-funny experiences have shaped what can perceived as my awkward personality. I drag many of these horror stories into my present and become socially strange during interactions with people.
“Hi Reds, how are you?”
“My neighbour’s dog just died”
I have the capacity to be very relatable to others but a mechanism in my brain quickly scrolls through my mental Rolodex and finds reasons for me to be the odd one out. In hindsight, I am glad that I can make these connections between the past and present. 1. Because I like to have a reason for everything. 2. Because they make for pretty good entertainment when I do encounter someone with whom I have nothing much to say.
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