Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Julia Doll and My African Babysitter


It was in Mankato when I was a first grader, that I got a Julia doll - just like Dianne Carroll from the T.V. show. See photo!
In Julia, Carroll played widowed single mother Julia Baker (her fighter pilot husband had been shot down in Vietnam) and she was a nurse in a doctor's office. The doctor was a good guy and Julia went on dates (and had great clothes!)The character of Julia's son, Corey was my age and had barely known his father before he died. Well that was the show.
In real life, our Dad, (Gary) worked at the University and had at his disposal a ready supply of babysitters. Foreign students couldn't legally work in the USA and Dad often had them as babysitters so they could earn cash. A few times, Dad hired an African foreign exhange college student to babysit for me and Janis. This young lady was facinating to me - she wore brightly colored clothes and had a thick accent, she had skin the same color as my Julia doll so I ran and got it to show her. (I was a dorky six-year old) She told me about the people and animals in Africa and I was enthralled - shortly afterwards I modified my nightly prayers to:
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray to God my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray to God my Soul to take. Amen. God Bless Mommy and Daddy and Joanie and Janny and David and Danny and Cocoa and everyone in in the whole world and Jungle - Amen
Apparently, it became my priority to ensure the people and animals in the Jungle were well-prayed for after my detailed discussions about the state of Africa with my babysitter. Then the day came when I begged and pleaded for her to tell me a scary story (around Halloween) - she did - she told me the story of "Bloody Bone Step". Now a scary story to a suburban kid in 1970 is not the same thing as a scary story to people growing up in Africa - there are alot more scary happenings in Africa - we were even to see Genocides in the decades to come - so brutality was nothing new to the subsaharan African people. Yet to a sheltered, suburban, first grader - this kind of brutality surrounding death and voodoo was mind blowing. Let's just say I did not close my eyes for 2 solid weeks.
My mind was blown out to a new configuration and I now knew what "scary" was - I aged several years during that single story - I lost innocence. It was like I was in a Garden of Eden at 6 years old in 1960/70's suburban America and then the visual images of evil catapulted me forward in the knowlege of what was out in the world. I left Eden and was shivering in the cold, cruel world (metaphorically and psychologically). Yet, my babysitter was guiltless - as a college exchange student she didn't fully know the cultural divide. The capability for humans to be evil were more scary than any zombies or monsters....I was beginning to awaken. Oh - you noticed that I didn't tell you the scary story - well, you can't handle the story...seriously.

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