Little Girl’s Dream: Massive ’70s Afro

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Although I don’t believe all the hooey we were taught in the legend of the first American Thanksgiving, I’ve got no problem with a day dedicated to gratitude. As I browsed over at I thought their challenge of a Person-Centric Gratitude List might be a good idea. You know, throw some gratitude all over some people instead of the usual list of things and stuff.

It feels like a fail. I’m far too preoccupied with grammar and the art of a well-crafted question to be a very good sport. After I deleted the snarkiest of my answers I felt I’d spent too much time on it to trash it. And I can’t recall ever telling the Wished I Was A Black Girl story before. It’s true. I was what? Seven? I understood nothing of races and racial issues yet. I just wanted the hair.

Bear with me, friends. I’ll be ever so grateful.

The People-Centric Gratitude List

  1. Someone who makes you laugh. When was the last time you busted out laughing with this person? What is it about this person’s words or personality that makes you happy?

Recently. My step-son texts me updates on his healthy bowel movements from college. Also his unhealthy bowel movements. It’s part of our bond. When I first started dating The Chef all of his children were teenagers. Our first laugh was poop-related. Nine years later we still laughing.

  1. Your mother (or a mother figure in your life). What comfort and nourishment has she provided for you?

My mother’s nourishing specialties were:

  • Shake ‘n Bake
  • Hamburger Helper
  • Vienna Sausages

She taught me some basic sewing stitches. They were useful if not comforting.

  1. Your father (or a father figure in your life). What support and guidance has he provided for you?

He taught me how to fish, play several sports, change a tire, kill a snake, and how to drill a hole in a thumbnail to release internal bleeding.

  1. Your family. Near and far, no matter how dysfunctional, what about your family makes them special to you?

They are special because they exist. Of particular pleasure are the code words–the secret language no one else understands.

  1. Your roommate, neighbor or someone who lives in your community. What acts of kindness has this person showed you?

When my neighbor encounters me running through the neighborhood he stops his truck, gets out, and hugs me no matter how sweaty I am.

  1. Your boss. How does this person help support and guide you? What lessons have you learned from this person?

She trusts me. Her trust inspires me to be trustworthy.

  1. A co-worker. What is one thing this person does to help get you through the work day?

When he calls me on the phone he says “Good morning, Sunshine.”

  1. Someone who always has your back. When was a time when you knew this person would be there for you?

Nope. But I’m grateful that this does exist in the world. I read about it all the time.

  1. Your partner. What is valuable about your partner? What do you appreciate about the relationship you have with each other?

He is valuable because he exists. I appreciate that he doesn’t try to change me.

  1. A favorite teacher or professor. What did this person teach you?

We learn far more from a long miserable failure than we do from an easy success.

  1. A stranger. When was the last time a stranger showed you a random act of kindness?

That man from Nigeria who sat next to me on the plane made feel as if everything I had to say was important.

  1. The people [with whom] you are spending Thanksgiving with. What do you think is special about spending time with these people on Thanksgiving?

They don’t make me edit their grammar. Kidding—everyone makes me do this.

These people are special because they exist. Time with them is special because they exist.

  1. Children. Think of a child you know that who brings you delight and cheerfulness.

As opposed to a child I don’t know? My niece told me she has basil eyes. I was delighted.

My other niece says we all just need to belax. I felt cheerful.

  1. The elderly. Think of a senior that has imparted wisdom to you.

It would make me happier to see senior citizen in that statement since anyone older than me is my senior.

An old church lady admonished me to stop complaining about my chubby cheeks when I was a kid. She told me that when I become an old lady those cheeks will make me look younger and I’ll be sorry I ever spoke ill of them.

  1. A favorite character from a novel or TV show. What about this character do you love?

Oh no. I will not pick a favorite. But I adore the gesture of Harold Glick when he wants to express his feelings to Ana Pascal. He brings her a dozen flours instead of a dozen flowers.

She’s a baker.

  1. A doctor, therapist, trainer, etc. How has this person helped you to improve your health?

I learned that trauma stays in the body long after injuries are healed and manifest themselves as mystery pains we think couldn’t possibly be related to the source of the trauma. Deeper healing takes deeper work.

  1. The armed forces. Express your thanks for those you know and those you don’t know who have served.

Thank you.

  1. A best friend from college or grade school. What is a favorite memory with this person?

In second grade I was fascinated with my friend Monica’s hair. Monica was black. She was my reading group partner because we were the most advanced readers in the class.

I had no idea that black folks’ hair was any different than white folks’ hair. The racial/texture/genetic details of such things were still among of the mysteries of the Universe at that age.

Monica wore her hair parted four ways and pulled into four perky pigtails with those fantastic clacker-ball hair bands we loved in the ‘70s. Sometimes her mom tied them up with fluffy yarn bows. She was gorgeous and smart. Her favorite color was pink.

I was enchanted with Monica’s hair and scalp. They always looked so shiny. I thought it was magic or some kind of super-power. Under the classroom lights and especially under the recess sun, her entire head had this brilliant, lustrous sheen. When I parted my hair and wore pigtails my scalp looked dull and pink and did not shimmer. My hair was not glossy like hers. One day I asked her about it. She said it was “jojo” and her mom put it on her hair to make it smooth, like lotion for your hair. Cool! I wanted some.

I went home and asked my mom if I could have some jojo in my hair to make it shiny. After explaining my request she set me straight (pun intended) on white hair and black hair and denied me any jojo. I was so disappointed. My hair would never look like Monica’s because it couldn’t. It was science. 

I went back to school feeling inferior to Monica and black girls everywhere because I had flat, straight, lifeless, boring, yellow hair upon which I could put no jojo. This only got worse the first time I saw a black lady (still remember her name—Clara Dixon) with one of those gloriously enormous Afros. I was so jealous. I wanted that glittery pouf. That fluff. That massive goddess halo. My mother swore this wasn’t possible. I swore she must be wrong or lying to me.

In the throes of my second grade anguish Monica took pity on me and let me run my index finger down the length of her scalp to swab some jojo from her hair. We parted mine with a pencil so I could painstakingly rub the harvested jojo onto my scalp and hair. Monica inspected my head and reported to me with a sad face that it didn’t seem to work. I still had no shimmer. It was a heartbreak never to be forgotten.

  1. A person [with whom] you shared a meal with. When was the last time you shared a meal with somebody, and what did you enjoy about this experience?

I ate dinner with my Chef last night. I enjoyed the food, his company, the shelter from the rain, the electricity in the dwelling, the beverage in my glass, the dishwasher standing by and the lack of prepositions at the ends of our sentences.

  1. YOU. You do SO much every day. Your body does SO much for you every day. Hug yourself and love yourself!


— Frail Gurglet

(grateful girl)

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