Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Hue Violet: All Black is not “Black”

The final days with the Rajwanis ended similarly to how they began. Ravi would search out Annabelle to find an item he’d “misplaced”, and she’d quietly walk him to where he’d left it on the floor in his bedroom. Anitha would command her to wash a pot she was preparing to cook dinner with while she looked out of the window until it was done, and little Serena would throw violent fits until she got her way or something close to it. There was one small change though: Annabelle no longer cared.

Ravi sensed the change in her, and seemed as though he wanted to make an effort to connect.

“I’ve taken the trash out, Annabelle, so you don’t have to this morning,” he said sheepishly.

“Why…well thank you, Ravi!” she said with genuine surprised pleasure.

Not to be undone, Anitha scurried upstairs to put back an ironing board she’d had sitting in the hall way since the night before. She looked expectedly at Annabelle and Ravi, like a puppy expecting praise or a treat for having pooped on the newspaper for the first time. Neither said a word in response and went about their day.

That night, after the sun had gone down and the house was still, Annabelle got a book and a bowl, as had become her custom. Anitha came searching her out in her moment of peace, as had become her custom.

“What are you reading?” she asked, standing in the doorway regarding Annabelle intently.

The Help,” she replied.

“Oh! Did you see the movie?”

“Yeah. I liked it.”

“I didn’t like it at all,” Anitha sniffed.

“Why not?” Annabelle was moderately curious.

“I just think they could have made it more humorous,” Anitha said disapprovingly.

“Well…those were serious times,” replied Annabelle. “And to make it anymore humorous would have made it the ‘Amos & Andy’ show.”

The remark was missed to Anitha.

“Also, I don’t think it was realistic at all.”

“How so?”

Now Annabelle was completely curious.

“Well, I just think that they could have depicted Minnie as feistier. They really toned her character down for the movie, and I don’t think it was an accurate depiction of – you know – the typical Black woman from the South with an attitude.”

Annabelle stopped spooning her food into her mouth and folded her hands onto her lap. She stared long and hard at the woman standing in front of her, who had the audacity to speak so disparagingly about her race AND her sex. She took a deep breath before she answered.

“Well, Anitha. Not all Black women are like Minnie,” she reasoned. “Minnie is a stereotype, and you can’t paint all Black women with such a broad brush.”

“Well, yes, I know THAT,” retorted Anitha. “I mean, you have Michelle Obama, but she is in the minority, when it comes to Black women. There are more Black women like Minnie than there are Michelle Obama.”

Annabelle held Anitha’s gaze, hoping her eyes conveyed the disbelief and contempt she felt for the woman at that moment. She took her hands from her lap and folded them behind her head. As if sensing that she had backed herself into a corner, Anitha set out to prove her point with irrefutable data.

“I see you’re looking at me like ‘Oh, whatever’, but I lived in Tennessee before I got here,” Anitha reasoned. “I used to live near a lot of struggling Black women in low income housing, and I know that most of them are just like Minnie!”

“Anitha. Those women, as you said, were from lower incomes…and probably had a poor education. Any manners that they did or did not have were as a result of poverty – not a reflection on their RACE. There are poor White, Hispanic – whatever – who are just as gauche. There are all types of women between Michelle Obama and Minnie. Don’t discount them.”

Anitha seemed unconvinced. Perhaps in an effort to further offend Annabelle, or perhaps in an effort to strengthen her argument, she gave further evidence to prove the paltry worth of the entire Black race.

“As you know, I am an attending physician at the facility I work in. As much attitude as Black women have, I’d much rather work with them than Black men.”

Annabelle was silent, waiting for her to continue.

“Because Black men are just lazy! You can’t imagine how much time I have to spend picking up after them. At least Black women pick up after themselves. The Black male physicians at my facility? They think they can just wink at the nurses and they will clean up their mess. It’s amazing!”

Oh? You mean like I have to clean you and your physician husband’s shit?

Anitha seemed flustered that Annabelle would not respond. Her hands were still firmly nestled behind her back.

“You must be thinking ‘Oh, whatever’,” she repeated, “but it’s true!”

“Well, Anitha,” she finally responded, “I cannot debate your experience. I wasn’t there, so I can’t comment either way.”

Anitha prattled on as usual for a few more minutes until she got tired of hearing herself talk and left Annabelle to her meal. When Annabelle called to relay this story to me, I was as SHOCKED as you no doubt are at this moment, Reader. Tell me you don’t want to give Anitha a dirty slap, palm open!

Back to the story.

Emancipation day came on Sunday morning. Annabelle gathered her things and prepared to leave. She sought out Serena to say her goodbyes.

“Serena,” she said sweetly. “I’m leaving now. I know you’ll grow up to be a really good girl someday. Take care of yourself, okay?”

She meant her words. A part of her felt utter sympathy for the child. It wasn’t her fault she’d been born to idiot parents, and deep down, she was a good kid.

“Goodbye Ms. Annabelle. I’ll miss you.”

Would she really? Who knew?

Ravi had gone out of town and Anitha was upstairs in her bedroom. She did not bid Annabelle farewell, and that was fine by her. I pulled up in my car to collect my friend, who looked like she’d been through Hell and back again. She laughed uncontrollably before settling into a pensive silence. I patted my friend on the back.

“Come on, Annabelle,” I said. “Let’s get you home!”

And home she came.

The end…and screw you, Anitha!

The Hue Violet: A Home Where Generosity Doth Abide

“You know, I’m a very generous person. I’m kind. I’m considerate…very giving, you know. I’m always thinking of others.” – Anitha Rajwani

Ravi came home the following Tuesday afternoon, carrying in the mail. As was his custom, he left his jacket on the sofa, his shoes by the stairs and his briefcase on the dining room table on his way into the kitchen. Serena, Anitha and Annabelle were preparing to have dinner when he arrived. As he sifted through the mail, he grunted his displeasure at the sight of one particular envelope.

“Ugh. The mail man left us a Christmas card,” he miffed.

“Why would he ever do that?” asked Anitha in amazement.

Ravi paused and thought for a moment.

“It’s because he wants something back.”

“Ugh! Now we have to go out and get HIM something. How inconsiderate!”

Annabelle stared at the pair of them in disbelief.

“You know, maybe he just wanted to wish you tidings for the season,” she opined. “I really don’t think it was anything more than that.”

“Well, he should know that we don’t celebrate Christmas,” countered Anitha.

“Maybe so. But I don’t think you should feel obligated to get him anything in return. Just accept it as a gift,” Annabelle reasoned.

Ravi and Anitha looked at each other and laughed.

“No, no. You don’t know these people. He’ll definitely be looking for something back.”

Annabelle sighed and continued her search for her own dinner. There was no point in carrying on this conversation. After all, the Rajwanis knew their mail man better than she did, didn’t they? She retreated to her room soon after that.

An hour later, Anitha knocked on her door. Now that they were “bosom buddies” again, it was okay for Anitha to speak to her – other than through text messaging.

“I never got a chance to tell you about my day!” she huffed, flouncing herself on Annabelle’s bed.

“Oh. Okay. How was it?”

Anitha began by telling her about a non-profit that she volunteers for and gives money to in Clarkston. It’s a shelter for refugees, many of whom are Somali. This is where she had spent her afternoon.

“You know, these people from third world nations and Africa come here and want to be waited on hand and foot,” she groused. “They never want to clean up their center, and they expect me to do it for them!”

“Anitha. I highly doubt that they don’t want to clean up their center,” Annabelle countered. “And it’s unfair to say that all people from Africa don’t want to work.”

“Oh no, no! I don’t mean YOU, Annabelle,” Anitha replied, catching herself. “YOU work very hard for your money, but these other people from third world nations just want to be looked after by other people of…a certain class.”

“What are you really talking about, Anitha? Are you concerned about your taxes going to help the less fortunate?”

“No, that’s not it at all. I just want them to clean up after themselves, and they refuse.”

Annabelle paused for a moment. She didn’t bother to choose her words carefully, because she doubted it would matter. Reasoning with Anitha is often like reasoning with a brick wall.

“My friend runs a non-profit, and within every non-profit there is a hierarchy. There is someone whose responsibility it is to make sure the center is clean, and that responsibility is not yours.”

“I don’t think that applies here at all Annabelle,” Anitha said, as though she were speaking utter rubbish. “Every non-profit is different.”

“That may be so, but every non-profit has officers with specific jobs.”

Anitha carried on about poor, lazy Africans for another few minutes before Annabelle stopped her.

“Anitha. You’re speaking in generalities. Not all Africans are poor refugees, just like not all Indians are running around barefoot, eating curry. You of all people should know this.”

Anitha was taken aback.

“I don’t think the two comparisons are the same at all!”

Annabelle had had enough.

“You know what, Anitha? You’re a grown woman, and you control your money. If you don’t want to give to this organization, no one is forcing you. I think I’d like to go to sleep now.”

Anitha stood and left the room, still muttering to herself about how she was going to get these people to clean up after themselves. It was as if Annabelle had never spoken.

“Shut the door behind you – please!”

Annabelle rolled her eyes when she heard the door click.

*****

Ravi had been traveling on speaking engagements for the last week and was happy to be home. He was exhausted from the toll that flying had taken on his rotund frame, and was looking forward to some quiet time. Anitha was glad that he was home too. She had arranged for them to meet up with friends that evening in the city. She sent him a text to inform him of the engagement while she was out shopping for an outfit with Serena. He did not respond.

Knowing that her employer was weary Annabelle made every effort to keep quiet as he slept. An hour into his nap, Anitha rushed into the house and went pounding up the stairs.

“Hey! It’s time for you to get up,” she yelled.

“Anitha…I’m tired,” he said pleadingly.

“You see? This is what I mean! You have your priorities all wrong! We are supposed to be going out!”

“I’m not going.”

“What?”

“I said ‘I’m not going’!” Ravi repeated angrily.

Anitha screamed and left the room. As usual, she sought out Annabelle.

“Ravi’s family is not a priority to him…even Serena! He’s always traveling on his stupid speaking engagements. I’m so sick of it!”

Annabelle regarded the woman silently, and then looked around her gilded house. Did this woman not realize that her husband was working as hard as he was so that SHE could work part time and live in such a lovely home? Annabelle had seen one of the checks that Ravi had brought home, and it was nothing to sneeze at. Suddenly, she felt sorry for the broken man upstairs. She felt proud that he had stuck to his guns and decided to stay home…although he was certain to pay for it later.

Later that evening, after the family had eaten and gone to bed, Annabelle prepared her plate and began reading a book at the dinner table. The sound of heavy footfall came down the stairs. It was Ravi, looking for something to drink. He seemed startled to see Annabelle there.

“You look so peaceful sitting there…with your book,” he said wistfully.

Annabelle looked at him, and spoke before thinking.

“That’s because you have to create it in this house!”

Ravi stared at her for a moment, got his drink, and retreated back upstairs without another word. What else was there to be said?

The Hue Violet: Gimme One Reason to Stay Here, and We’ll Play it By Ear

“She’s a terrible communicator, and very lazy,” Anitha whispered.

“Oh. Wow,” said her interviewee in surprise.

“And she was awful with Serena…very unkind. Not loving at all.”

As Anitha continued to rant about how Annabelle never did any work around the house, she shifted her body a bit closer to hear a bit better. When she did, a floor board squeaked, betraying her position. The whispering between the two women stopped.

Anitha sat up and moved off the topic of Annabelle.

“How do you feel about soda?” she asked.

“Well, I try not to drink too much of it,” the woman replied. “I prefer juice and water.”

“Good, good!” Anitha exclaimed. “We try to keep it healthy around here, and not do too much sugar. It’s just not good for you.”

Annabelle chuckled to herself. That was a passive aggressive jab at her. Her one indulgence was the bottle of Coke she kept in the fridge. She was not going to bend and let Anitha take that away from her! Annabelle lost interest in the conversation and went back to her bedroom. Nothing else was being said about her, and the two women’s natural speaking voices were so loud that there was no longer a need to eavesdrop.

“When can you start?” Anitha asked.

“Some time after the New Year,” the woman replied.

“No, no. I need you to start sooner than that,” Anitha wailed. “Like next week.”

“Well, I have to tie up some loose ends before I can come…”

“Can’t you tie them up while you work here?” Anitha asked, cutting the woman off. “What are these loose ends?”

The new  nanny explained that she was living with someone, and couldn’t leave them with the bills so unexpectedly. She also needed time to transfer some things out of her name. Anitha seemed uneasy, and tried again to press the woman into starting the following week. It was left undecided when the new nanny said good bye. Annabelle lay in her bed and chuckled to herself. She couldn’t care less. That day after tomorrow, she’d be leaving, and none of this would matter.

*****

When Annabelle entered Serena’s room the next morning to get her dressed for school, she was assailed by the stench of stale urine and poop. Serena, to her credit, was sitting on the toilet, attempting to use it on her own. The bin beside her was full of used toilet tissue, which she’d used to wipe herself and not flushed.

“Serena,” chided Annabelle, “the toilet paper goes into the toilet so that you can flush it, not the trash!”

“Well, Momma says I have to put it in the trash can.”

“No dear. You have to flush it.”

“Moooommmmaaaa!” called Serena. “Miss Annabelle says I have to put the toilet paper in the toilet when I’m done! Can you tell her I have to put it in the trash?”

“I’ll talk to Miss Annabelle about that later, sweetie,” her mother replied tersely.

Nah, man. You don’t have to tell me nothing. Tomorrow morning, I’m outta here!

Annabelle cleaned Serena up and got her ready for school. She felt a wave of peace wash over her as she drove the child off for the last time.

 

*****

The next morning, Annabelle went about her duties, saying very little to the family. Her spirits were high, as she anticipated leaving her gilded prison. As she scrubbed the kitchen, humming to herself, Anitha came down and greeted her.

“Good morning, Annabelle.”

“Good morning.”

“Sorry for the phone ringing so early this morning, if it disturbed you…”Anitha went quiet and let her voice trail off. Annabelle had learned to speak her language, so she knew this was her cue to ask what was wrong. Anitha rarely paused when speaking.

“Is everything alright?” she asked non-committedly.

“It’s my mother in India. She’s had a stroke.”

“Oh dear. I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah,” whispered Anitha. She brightened up suddenly. “Well, the good thing is, we have a family full of doctors – like me – so she’ll be well taken care of!”

“Yes, Anitha. I’m sure she will.”

Annabelle went back to cleaning. Just a few more hours.

 

*****

At 5 pm, with all her bags packed, Annabelle stood by the entrance of the door, preparing to depart. She sent Anitha one last text, to bid her good-bye.

I’m leaving now. Thank  you for the opportunity to work here. I wish you and Ravi well!

She hit “send” and put on her jacket. As she zipped up, she heard footsteps pounding on the stairs.

“Wait! You said you would give a two week notice!” Anitha objected breathlessly.

“Umm…I did. You said I could use last week as part of my notice.”

“What? Umm. No. No! That’s not what I meant at all. I need TWO weeks from you.”

Annabelle just stared at the woman.

“Well, you know my mother in India is sick, and I have so much going on here….”

Annabelle put up her hand to stop her. Then she did something she hoped she would not regret.

“I can stay another week, Anitha, if you need it.”

“Oh good! Okay!”

Anitha spun on her heel and went back upstairs.

My mouth was agape when I heard this.

“Annabelle, you DO realize she just asked you to stay because she hadn’t replaced you right?”

“Yeah, I know,” she admitted.

“You DO know if that woman was able to start this week, she would’ve kicked you out of her home, right?”

“Yeah. But I could do with the extra money. Besides, what’s one more week?”

My Kindergarten Terrorists

Salaam: It means “peace”.

 My kids go to a Fulton County charter school. Their classmates are Egyptian, Senegalese, Korean and Indian. Their teachers are from Russian, Japan and Italy. They are the only public elementary school that studies environmental science for a grade. Every student in that school also receives instruction in a foreign language – one of the 12 languages spoken at the UN. That language is Arabic.

A flyer was circulated in North Fulton, labeling my kids’ school as an  “Islamic terrorist training camp”, populated by “ragheads” and “camel jockeys”. If you’ve made any sort of assumptions about what manner of person would ASSume such a thing, you’re probably dead on. As of this post, their probably sitting on their front porch sippin’ sweet tea and humming the refrain of ‘Old Dixie’ beneath the shade of their 6 foot confederate flag.

I daresay that very few people in the city of Alpharetta cared much for Amana Academy before the beginning of this year, or had even heard of it. For the first 4 years of its existence it was housed in a converted trailer, and now leases space in what used to be a grocery store. It is a windowless structure, devoid of natural light and barely has enough space for the 475 students who are currently in attendance at the school. Despite the wanting accommodations, Amana consistently outperforms other schools in the State, and has become a model of excellence that public schools in Georgia look to. Coke-a-Cola just named Amana the Charter School of the Year…two years in a row. It’s a great school, and my kids are happy there. But even when things are going great, there is always room for improvement…and it was that desire to improve that had certain the citizens of Alpharetta up in arms. There would be no “terrorist training camp” in their backyard. Not on their watch! They began the process of spreading fear and sowing hate into every citizen in the Windward area, politicians and laymen alike. For some, those seeds took deep root, and very quickly.

Our school’s board has been scouting a new location for our school for about a year now, and they found one on Windward Parkway. The building has sat vacant for the last 4 years. In the past it has been home to a gym, a karate dojo and a private Christian school. Suddenly, when my kids’ school, Amana Academy put in a bid to purchase the property, it was not suitable for use as an educational facility/school. The matter went up for a vote in August and again last night.

My 5 year old was excited to join me to witness the meeting.

“We’re going to Hall City!” she said with much bravado.

“Yes. We’re going to City Hall tonight, to be a part of a public hearing.”

“We’re going because I’m getting a new school,” she said matter-of-factly.

“We’re going to see IF you can move to a new school,” I said in correction.

She frowned, and looked at me hard.

“No Mommy. We’re going because we’re getting a new school.”

I simply nodded my head. Now was not the time to discuss the workings of city government in a state that has an abysmal record regarding human rights and civility.

 The main chamber was already full when we arrived, and we were directed to the annex to participate in the hearing. It was a cold brick structure with no windows, a peeling wood floor and two speakers. We would not be able to watch the hearing – only listen.  Scores of Amana parents showed up, huddling with their children  in the cold Georgia air. Some were hopeful, and some like mine, were too young to understand what this meeting really meant. My daughter quickly set about making friends with another 5 year old who was sitting in front of her. They played rock-paper-scissors and talked about what they were getting for Christmas.

 I looked around the room, analyzing all who had assembled there. There was a single mom, still in her UPS uniform who had rushed in from work to show her support for her school. There was stay-at-home moms clad in sensible flats and head scarves. Fathers with furrowed brows listening intently to every word that was being said by the unseen council members, as they greeted each other with accolades.

“Council woman Cheryl Oakes has contributed this city with hard work and conviction, and thanks to her conservative values, we are thriving now,” I heard a male voice gush.

Ugh. “Conservative values.” Every time I hear that phrase, my skin crawls. It has, sadly, become a synonym for “myopic and closed minded.” I tried to keep courage, to keep home alive, but I could already guess the caliber of individual who was voting on our school’s future. My sentiments were probably skewed, given that I had just watched “The Help” for the first time that afternoon. I was in no mood for Southern snobbery.

The Amana case was the last on the scheduled to be heard, as there were 4 other matters before the council to consider. Our case was (apparently) very controversial.  Joining us in the annex were members of the opposition. Some were your usual suspects, like the hard faced blonde in riding boots and Brighton jewelry who refused to make eye contact with anyone. Accompanying her was a greying brunette and her husband, also unsmiling and looking around the room as if someone had used it to store items so vulgar that it offended their “fine sensibilities”. A teacher who had been standing behind them heard the blonde angrily address a city hall official.

“We’ve been standing in the back for so long. Is there no way to move into the front so we can get seated?”

“No,” he reportedly replied. “Everyone has to line up and wait their turn.”

“Well why can’t we have two separate lines?” she rebuffed. “One for the ones who are “For” and one for those who are “Opposed”?

“Everyone has to come through the same door,” the official replied.

Finally around 9 pm, the Amana case was heard. Noting the bad publicity that Alpharetta was garnering for calling little children names, those who were opposed came up with another tactic – they were assert that putting a school there would greatly hamper traffic. To be fair, I’ve been on Windward parkway at peak times and I only made that mistake once. That exit at 4:30 – 6:30 pm is a nightmare. Fortunately, none of us parents would be picking up our children during those hours; school lets out at 3 o’clock.

We had an engineer testify concerning the traffic study he’d conducted and lay out the impact it would have. After debunking the myth that 475 students, many of whom carpool and ride the bus, would add strain to already bad traffic, the opposition moved on to several other scenarios, each one more absurd than the next.

“What if a Fortune 500 company comes by Windward and sees a school there? They would pass us by and decide not to invest in our community,” said some guy who identified himself as a lawyer.

Hadn’t happened yet in the 4 years the building has been vacant, but that’s just a minor detail.

“Why would we put a school right in the bulls-eye of traffic!” cried another.

This gave me pause. Did I hear him right? What’d you say? “Bulls-eye”? Poor choice in words, buddy. My kids are not your target.

“I’m sure Amana is a good school,” said one woman  said,” but we have 3 other good schools in Alpharetta. I think we’re good on schools.”

Oh? Suddenly there’s a cap on how many good schools you need in an area? No matter America is failing at – I dunno – EVERYTHING!

“I’m a mom, and I’m concerned for these children,” another woman objected. “There’s only one way in and out of that building. If there’s a tornado, there’s no way EMS and firefighters can reach them! It’s just not safe.”

Well damn. I guess everyone who lives in EVERY subdivision in America is screwed. Most of us only have one way in and out of our communities as well!

“My name is Bob Whatever, and I do risk management for a large corporation,” said a man with an intolerable drawl. “There are some things we call manageable risks, and others we call unacceptable risks. And I’ve done a brief risk analysis of this building. (Sure you did.) There are sprinkler systems and hallways in the building (he blithers on like this for 2 minutes) and this building isn’t even safe for computers. How are we going to put children in a building that’s not even safe for computers?”

Wait. So now this building is a death trap? Was it a death trap when the church was operating out of it a few years ago? Or did God miraculously keep them safe? You need your job taken from you.

In between each opposing view, our students, teachers and business partners rebutted valiantly, eloquently and respectfully. I wish I could say the same for the opposition. One of the final comments I heard was from a man who introduced himself as moving to Alpharetta from Alaska 14 years before, and having worked in city council AND as a volunteer with a private school, had “unique insight” to our situation. As he spoke, I imagined what he might look like.

“Mr. Mayor, I just want to thank you for even considering to take this matter up for vote,” he began. “That you would even allow THESE people, who don’t live in or pay taxes for Alpharetta to come here in speak in OUR city hall really speaks to your character. The truth is, Amana School has failed. It has failed to find suitable accommodations for its students and that these people have sent their children in here to speak on their behalf and SIT THERE quietly while they do it, is totally reprehensible to me!”

He probably smelled like fish.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked out of the annex and into the main hall. I wanted to at least SEE what these people looked like. As I crept into the door, a mother was imploring the council.

“I have one compelling reason,” she said earnestly. “He’s 5 years old, wants to be an astronaut and always live with mommy.  Please give him a building with windows so that he can look at the sky.”

I scanned the council members and my heart sank. They all looked “conservative”. I knew that we weren’t going to make it. At 11:50 pm I buckled my slumbering child into my car and drove home. There was school the next morning, and we would not be late.

I laid in bed all night, wondering what the decision would be. Did any of these community leaders consider the economic impact that this school would have? The job of renovating it alone would bring employment for a year at least, not to mention the projected boost in sales for surrounding businesses. Were our kids to be so abysmally scorned because they are descendants of people from over 30 nations around the world, and may speak a second language, but are American by birth nonetheless?

At 2:30 am we got our answer. We learned via email that the council had voted “no”. Fear and prejudice had won out.

Salaam. It’s Arabic for peace. And that’s all my kids want. That’s all any child wants – a safe, peaceful place to study and develop.  If it’s not to be had in Alpharetta, we will certainly find it somewhere else.

The fact is, no matter who moves into that building, there is going to be added traffic. Those in opposition to the sale of this property to Amana Academy could care less about traffic than they would about the price of potatoes in China at New Years. This hearing was about sending a message – and that message was heard loud and clear. I hope you’re proud of yourselves Alpharetta…though you have no cause to be.

The Hue Violet: MIT – Monster In Training

When Annabelle pulled in the parking space behind the house, a trove of garbage greeted her at the back door. Ravi had left in a hurry that morning, so the culprit responsible for this crime was obvious.

“Anitha.”

Annabelle sucked her teeth and stepped over the rotting pumpkins that had been used to decorate for the fall season and the 6 or so bags of trash that were left abandoned no less than 10 feet from the garbage bin. It only stood to reason that the woman was going to come back and dispose of  the trash she’d left SO close to the bin. Why else would anyone do that?

Fuming over this latest incident, Annabelle turned her thoughts on how she’d gotten here. Surely this had been her fault. Yes, Anitha had failed to explain that they were looking for a slave to wait on them had to mouth, but she herself had set these precedencies by agreeing to do certain things from the very beginning…such as making the couples bed. That just smacked of Mammy-ism.

She busied herself with light cleaning and the ever heaping pile of laundry. Anitha was picking up Serena today, so that was one less battle she had to fight for the day. The child had grown increasingly belligerent, and was eager to tell Annabelle why.

“I’m getting a new nanny soon, so I don’t have to listen to you anymore,” Serena said cheekily one afternoon.

“That’s fine, Serena,” replied Annabelle dully. She couldn’t care less. It wasn’t as though she had a history of obedience to live up to.

Annabelle was brushing Serena’s hair when she made the announcement. She prepared to affix a dark brown ribbon to secure the ponytail she had made when Serena whipped around.

“No! Not that one! I don’t like dark colors,” the child said, eyeing Annabelle suspiciously.

So the kid was a racist? Wonder where she got that from.

“Okay Serena. Pick any one you’d like.”

Serena picked up a pink and white ribbon and skipped off when Annabelle was done.

Annabelle came from the laundry room to find mother and child seated on the sofa reading a book together. On the floor, by the dining room table, was a pile of Serena’s clothes that she had worn to school that day. They were soaked in urine.

“Excuse me, ladies,” Annabelle said to the pair. “Serena, can you please take your clothes upstairs and put them in your laundry duckie?”

“No. You do it.”

“No, Serena. These are not my clothes. There are your clothes.”

“Well, then Mommy can do it.”

Annabelle shook her head.

“These are not Mommy’s clothes either, and they just can’t sit there. Please take them up so that the house will be neat.”

Serena paused for a moment and then leapt off her mother’s lap.

“Okay.”

She took the clothes upstairs and returned a few moments later to resume reading the book. Anitha shot daggers at Annabelle, clearly angered that this woman had the gall to ask her precious child to do menial labor…labor that she was meant to be doing! Annabelle ignored the gaze and continued with the rest of her day.

The next afternoon, she spoke with the teacher to find out if she needed to bring more clothes for Serena. The child had a penchant for several wardrobe changes at home, and it appeared she was trying to do the same at school. In the course of conversation, it was revealed that Serena intentionally urinated on herself in order to change her clothes.

“She was sitting at her desk and had a little accident,” her teacher said. “She asked if she could change her clothes because she’d wet herself. I felt her pants and they were only the tiniest bit wet. I told her to go to the bathroom and finish peeing. She didn’t have to change her clothes.”

Annabelle was listened with withdrawn attention until the teacher finished up the tale with these words:

“Well, Serena went into the bathroom, stood by the toilet, and peed on herself, soaking herself right through. When she came out, she asked if she was wet enough to change.”

What a conniving little child!

“Wow. Ummm…okay! I’ll bring some more clothes then? Yes…” she let her voice trail off. If she cared enough about the family, she’d be embarrassed for them. At this point, this stunt was just another scene in an ongoing circus show.

As though her parents behavior weren’t disgraceful enough, Serena did her utmost – whether voluntarily or with some prodding – to make Annabelle aware that she was no longer welcome in the house. She made waking up very unpleasant.

“I don’t want you to get me out of the crib! I want Mommy to!” she screeched in the dawn hours.

“Okay, Serena,” Annabelle began firmly. “Two things: It’s too early for you to start screaming and second, I’d rather not be getting you out of the crib AT ALL, but Mommy is busy right now.”

The crib was soaked with urine. The previous night, she’d heard Serena tell her father she had to go to the potty after drinking as glass of water. The man’s reply was: “You’re wearing a diaper. Just pee in it.”

“When are you leaving?” the child asked suddenly. This was a question she had begun to ask often.

“Very soon, Serena,” Annabelle assured her.

In fact, that coming Saturday was when she would be departing. She could hardly wait. Anitha had scheduled two interviews that week. One was a no show, and the other was coming on Tuesday afternoon. As Annabelle had promised, she left the vicinity when the woman was scheduled to arrive. She sat in her bedroom and flipped through a magazine.

“Hello!” Anitha said warmly, greeting her candidate.

“Hello,” to woman said in reply. She stuck out her hand and introduced herself as Brianna. Annabelle gathered from her accent that she was White, probably from the Midwest.

The two ladies began to chat and Annabelle realized she had not shut her door. She got up to close but stopped short when she heard Anitha begin to whisper. What was she whispering about? Annabelle leaned in to hear a little better.

Lies, lies and yet more lies!

The Hue Violet: A Bone in Her Nose and a Plug in Her Lip

Money has been described as many things: The root of all evil; the answer to all things; bait for hookers; you name it. The truth is money is a tool. It is a catalyst and an accelerant, and one of the things that it accelerates is ones character. I once heard someone say that money doesn’t change a person – it rather makes them MORE of who they already are. That’s the mystery of money, isn’t it? It can buy you many things, but it can never buy a person class or character.

Annabelle discovered this with the Rajwanis.

After she abruptly gave her notice, Anitha and Ravi ceased all verbal communication with her. For 3 days Annabelle’s only contact with the two was via text. If they wanted anything done, they sent her a text. If they wanted her to change Serena, they sent her a text. If they were leaving the house they sent her a text! Anitha had begun arranging interviews for Annabelle’s replacement.

I’ll need some privacy when these interviews begin showing up, she sent in one text.

Of course! Annabelle texted back.

All though she would be well within her rights, she wouldn’t give in to the urge to tell the next employee to run for the hills. It was not safe here!

Annabelle’s “excommunication” continued in this way, so it was much to Annabelle’s surprise when Anitha came knocking on her bedroom door on the fourth night. She entered the room and sat on Annabelle’s bed.

“So tell me about the new Twilight movie,” said Anitha.

Annabelle was astounded.

“You…you want me to talk to you about Twilight?” she reiterated.

“Uh huh!” said Anitha with girlish anticipation. “I don’t mind the spoiler alert.”

Clearly she had misread Annabelle’s surprise. After shunning her for the last 3 days, this woman wanted to discuss Twilight? Amazing.

“Oookay…” began Annabelle, “sure.”

She monologued about the next chapter in the series for a few moments before Anitha interrupted her.

“You know these things really frighten me,” she began. “It takes a very vivid imagination to conjure up these sorts of things.

Annabelle tried to console her.

“Oh it’s alright Anitha. These things about vampires and such are just make believe.”

“Yes, but that’s the point,” countered Anitha. “Only someone with an artsy mind would come up with these things! They are very deep, very spiritual.”

She paused and looked over Annabelle, as though preparing to share something thought provoking and personal. Finally, she continued.

“You know, you wouldn’t know by looking at me, but I’m quite the artist myself,” she gloated impudently. “I was once accepted into one of the finest art schools in New York, but I gave it up to pursue medicine.

And now you’re a part time dietician.

“Ahhh. I see,” said Annabelle audibly.

Anitha looked her over once more.

“How long did it take you to learn English when you got here?” she asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, you speak English so well,” explained Anitha. “It must have taken you ages to get to this point!”

“Well, Anitha. I’m a Kenyan…and we were an English colony. All of our instruction in school was in English.”

“Oh,” sniffed Anitha. “Well in Pakistan, only the very wealthy learn English. Everyone else has their instruction in Urdu.”

“Yes, well in Kenya, even children in the rural areas still have their lessons in English.”

Annabelle decided to leave off the fact that their English may be very poor, but it was English nonetheless.

  Annabelle had tuned Anitha out after that point. She was insulted and the woman didn’t even have the compassion to notice…or care for that matter. In that one sentence, Anitha had confirmed all of Annabelle’s assumptions about her:  that was incredibly ignorant. In that ONE sentence, Anitha had confirmed what Annabelle had assumed that her employer had thought about her all along: that she was a ‘nobody.’ That she was an illiterate, impoverished African woman whose pleasure it was to do their bidding, no matter how foul. Ugh!

“I think I’m tired now Anitha. I’d like to go to bed.”

“Oh. Oh, well…good night.”

“Good night.”

The next morning, Annabelle heard Ravi get up and take a shower and used the bathroom. She heard him pad down the stairs, open the fridge and get something to drink. Then she heard his engine start and roar out of the driveway. This sent her into a panic. Serena!

The child was still sleeping when Annabelle rushed into her room.

“Serena, wake up sweetie, we have to get to school,” said Annabelle.

Serena was confused.

“Where’s Daddy?” she asked, putting on her clothes without resistance for once.

“He left for work,” Annabelle muttered.

For the last three days, Ravi had gotten up and gotten Serena ready and dropped her at school. Neither he nor Anitha had informed Annabelle that he would be doing this, not even via text. It was their way of “revenge” she supposed. With Annabelle’s mornings thus freed, she took her time getting up. Now the child was going to be late for school. As they were preparing to leave, Anitha stopped them at the door.

“Oh no, no, no my dear,” she chastised Serena. “That ribbon doesn’t match your dress. You’ll have to go upstairs and take it off.”

The girl was going to be late! Who cared about a ribbon, Annabelle fumed inwardly. Just a few more days, just a few more days, she chanted.

When Serena reemerged, her mother approved her ribbon and allowed the child to leave for school, with minutes left to bell time.

Annabelle carried Serena out of the car and rushed her up the stairs. After she bid Serena good bye, she was greeted by Southern Accent, her nanny informant and confidant. She looked surprised to see Annabelle.

“You decided to stay! Good for you!” she gushed.

“Huh? Oh no. I’m still leaving. I already gave my notice.”

“Notice? Girl, they told everyone ‘round here that you had been dismissed!”

“What?”

“Yeah! Anitha said…”

Annabelle cut her off. She didn’t want to hear what Anitha had said about. Besides, she could already imagine.

“I’d rather not know, thanks.”

“Well we all figured you had already gone, seeing as dad had been dropping Serena off these last couple of days.”

“Yeah…that’s been a bit strange.”

They chatted for a few minutes more before they each said their goodbyes. Annabelle could not believe it. Dismissed indeed! What did Anitha have up her sleeve, telling these sorts of lies. Annabelle pondered this all the way home, until something at the back door snapped her out of her thoughts.

“F****!!”

 

*NB: Okay, Readers. I wanted the last chapter of The Hue to be a triumphant one, where Annabelle comes out the victor and we all go ahead with the love of Christmas in our hearts, but Anitha will not let it be so! The woman has a black heart, and it is up to me to expose her for the villain that she truly is!  Do you know what else is interesting dear Readers? I couldn’t find a single image of an African woman with a bone in her nose or her lip for the installation. The woman pictured here is, ironically, Indian.

The Hue continues!!

It’s Okay to Say No

Ahh, the holidays. This is the time of year for turkey, tinsel and twinkling things. Some of these twinkling things will be gifts – and one of those gifts will be an engagement ring for some unsuspecting or highly anticipative girl.

I went to the mall about a week ago and looked into one of the jewelry stores. There were about four or five guys in there in deep conversation with the jewelers on staff. Judging from the average age of the customer, I easily made the leap in assuming that these lads were gathering that one essential tool to make their proposal complete: A diamond ring.

I pushed the stroller containing my two youngest children in the opposite direction towards the kids department at Penny’s. I knew that I would not be getting jewelry this year, and I was in no mood to stare wistfully at glittering baubles and blinging rings. Marshall had promised to get me something useful this year…something I really needed – a sports bra.  I wondered if any of the young men in that jewelry store anticipated that in five or six years, they’d be shopping for mundane items like boob holsters for their future brides.

Then I wondered if they’d given any thought to what they were embarking on at all. We’ve seen record divorce rates in this country over the last decade, because people haven’t given any real thought to what a marriage is or what it entails. It’s decreased slightly in the last two years, because more people are choosing to cohabit instead of jumping the broom. In some respects, it makes absolute sense, given the government’s fiscal assault on high earning couples.

Back to the point.

Images of giddy brides to be filled my imagination. I imagined young women encamped by eager family members, waiting to hear what her answer will be. Most of these young ladies will say “Yes! Yes! Of course I’ll marry you!” This reply will be followed by her tears of joy and a relieved grin.

In some cases, the answer will be a sorrowful/regretful “no”. These words will be followed by tears of another kind, generally culminating with some red faced young man storming out of the room/restaurant. He generally will not have the decency to wait while she offers to remain his friend.

This may sound odd, but I think that more people should say “no” to a marriage proposal more often…at least until they can know for sure what they are agreeing to. The gulf between what constitutes as marriage in a man’s mind and that of a woman’s is often immense, and sometimes impassible. This is why I’m a fan of pre-marital counseling.

When I got home from my eventful trip to the mall, I sought out the pictures from my wedding. There was one in particular I was looking for.

 In it, the photographer caught my astounded gaze as I listened to Coach Lamb (whom I DID NOT know would be speaking at my wedding) drone on about aspects of marriage I had not considered. Coach Lamb is an imposing figure, often unsmiling, and is not the arbiter of anything that remotely resembles romance. I was aghast that he was speaking at my wedding, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. The entire affair was hardly about what I wanted anyway.

Back to the point.

So I’m standing there listening to this man drone on about basketball and marriage, and how you can’t quit, and the fight it’s going to take to succeed.

“Divorce is not an option!” he boomed. “This is a DEATH covenant!!”

It felt like an eternity before he handed the mic back to the pastors that were meant to be marrying us. They too went over the promises that Marshall and I had agreed to, and were about to seal with the trading of rings. I thought about the 3 months’ worth of counseling we had completed. I said that I would do 80% of the cleaning if he would do 90% of the cooking. We both wanted between 3-4 kids. I could quit working anytime I wanted, as long as I didn’t spend up all the money. He couldn’t spend all of our money on useless electronics. We had an agreed upon purpose for our marriage, and it was not (solely) so that either of us would have an instant supply of booty. I had faith that he would hold up his end of the bargain, and I assume he had faith that I would do the same. He slipped my ring on my finger and I did likewise. A few words later and boom – we were married. Coach Lamb’s harshly delivered words about covenant stuck with me. It was like a spiritual beating that has for the most part kept me on the straight and narrow.

I truly believe that if more people (and I mean women) looked at their potential spouse carefully, and did away with this fairy tale motion of marriage we’ve all bought in to, we’d have more happy marriages and less divorce. We’d have more successful families too. It is a fact of life that more often than not, women compromise more in order to get married than men do. If you have the opportunity to stare down at a 30 page binder filled with what-ifs and will-bes, pouring over each detail with a pastor(s) that truly have your success as an individual first, and as a couple second in mind, at no point should you be afraid not to sign you name on that dotted line. You should not be afraid to say “No. I cannot do all of these things with this person sitting across from me.”

It’s the right thing to do. You will not have failed. You will have succeeded in keeping yourself for the one you were meant to be with, instead of attaching to yourself someone who is available right now. Your marriage will be built on the wrong foundation, and that foundation is fear. Fear that you’ll disappoint your family, fear that no one else will want to marry you, ->insert all other brands of fear here<-.

If you suspect that you’re not ready to be married, or that this guy/girl is not the one, it really is okay to say no.”