**This is a short story I wrote in hopes to process some of my own understanding of a culture of power. **
Baby is crying again. She been crying all morning, and I can’t hold her no more in my bony arms. She fuss too much and I been working on my patience but the good Lord didn’t fill me up this morning. I watch her fuss over in the rickety wooden crib by the door. Yellowing white paint hangs off the door in shreds, and I move towards it with a half a mind to pull off a long, dangling slice, but change my mind when I see sister peek her head through the side room.
“Pick up that baby,” she scolds, and I stick out my tongue at her, before scurrying outside. The sun is hot and there is a nook in the willow tree outside that is one of my favorite places in the whole world to go and think. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this new baby and what that means for me. Headache and responsibility I think, but nobody ask my opinion if those are two things that I wanted.
I climb up the tree, and curl against the scratchy bark. My body softens in the nook, and I peer down through the leaves at the grass below and frown at the house.
Baby was never just a baby. Naw, baby doesn’t have that luxury. Not that any of us did, I spose. But here, I see it so much that my insides sometimes curl up so tight, I wonder if there are soldiers fighting inside me.
When the ladies from Uptown come, with their hair flattened and smoothed into sleek ponytails, their lips reddened and eyes bright, they take turns picking up baby.
“Look at those spiral curls.”
“Look at that nose so big.”
“Black and mixed babies are just the cutest.”
Mama said they didn’t mean nothing by it. Said they were trying. Said to say thank you, nod your head like you understand and then hurry up about your business. Mama said a whole lot of smoothing just to cover up for their whole lot of none-of-their-business. But that does something to a body, I think. That early on label. That qualification. Either you cute or you ain’t, but whose standards are we measuring all of this on? Have you ever heard somebody say something like, “Oh, your white baby has such a white looking nose? Look at that white baby hair, so cute?”
Maybe I got you chuckling now. Mebbe you thinking, that would sound so strange. So why do I gots to hear it? Why? Aunt Mina says now we don’t sell ‘em on the stands, we slaving just by our standards. Just by who we believes tells truth, just by who we believes in our souls. Mama says she is just crazy in the head and that her words will land her right back smack in the ground, but Aunt Mina says at least the dust ain’t play no favorites. You can only count on four things, chile, she’d say. Yourself, dust, taxes and God and then she’d flash that big gap-toothed smile and smack her knee laughing.
But who gets to just be a baby? Just toes and smiles and fat dimpled chin? Who gets to be baby? No nothing added on, no extra fancy, let me compliment you with no compliment? No worry that baby will be dust before you are dust, because baby was never just baby.