March 30, 1998
For more than six years, Bonnie and I helped a single mother raise her two daughters, Sabrina from age 7 on, and Ana from birth on. As she got old enough to talk, it became clear that little Ana was a very smart little girl. Over and over, she would amaze us with her sense of humor and her intelligence, even at a very young age. One day when she was three years old, I asked her what she felt like doing. She replied, "Let's get something to eat... Actually, I'd rather go jump up and down on the bed." I remember being surprised that such a young one had just correctly used the word, "actually" in a sentence.
Ever since before she was old enough to talk, I always taught little Ana that she could be anything she wanted to be when she grew up.
Often, Ana and I would talk about what she wanted to do for a living when she grew up. As always, I would encourage her that a smart little girl like her could do anything she wanted to do when she grew up . Her career choices usually changed every few months. One time, she wanted to be a teacher and help people with computers (like me). Another time, she wanted to be an artist and nurse.
There was, however, a period of a few months, when she was three years old, that Ana's career choice was unusual to say the least.
When I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she replied, "A black woman model. Black woman models are so-oooo bea-u-tiful!" Without missing a beat, I told her, "Well, you know, honey, if that's what you want to be, then I'm sure that you can do it!"
For several weeks after that, everywhere we went, Ana told people that she wanted to be "A black woman model" when she grew up. She even told several black women, who each seemed delighted by the idea that a little white girl would want to grow up to be a black woman. I was really glad that everyone encouraged her just as I had, though some of them had a hard time trying not to laugh at the time. It was during those few months that the girls and I made friends with a black man named "Ray", who was both a stand-up comic and an artist. Ray worked in the local comedy clubs at night, and during the day he'd set up a little table in a mall or at an art fair and do airbrushed artwork on T-shirts for people who walked by. Ray did a T-shirt for me that has a picture of Ana and Sabrina on the front. At her request, Ray was delighted to paint Ana with dark skin, to make her look more like a black woman model. I never wore that shirt because I didn't want to take a chance of ruining the artwork. In fact, it's still in perfect condition, hanging on a hanger in the closet in Ana's bedroom at my house.
Now that Ana is nine years old, I'm sure that her career choices have changed again. However, I'm also sure that my sweet, smart little goddaughter is going to grow up to be whatever she wants to be - even if she wants to be a black woman model.
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