Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Mythical Bear on crossing the Channel

From a young age I was sure I wanted to marry a man. This was sealed when we once crossed the channel to visit family in England when I was about seven. It was a stormy night, and a lot of passengers were sea sick, including my whole family. Except my father, who ran from one to the other, mopping up sick and trying to calm us down. Even though clearly the seas were not going to relent. It was in this commotion of sea sickness and upheaval where the calm of one being stood out. He must have been taking care of us in some way and I remember him towering in front of me. He was an African man, of huge proportions, and he felt reassuringly solid and kind. Like a hero, steady and serene like a rock. The mythical bear. As I stood there, taking him in, time slowed down. He bent down to me. What I remember most were his hands. They were like huge paddles, and as they were making their way down to me....he simply stroke the top of my head. Immediately I fell in love with him and a thought accompanied that powerful feeling: ‘one day, when I will be a grown up, I will marry a black man and have lots of black babies’. I have married, not a black man, so consequently bore no black babies. But black babies featured highly in my dreams and in my work for years. Once when one of my twin girls played alongside her black friend on the kitchen floor I thought ‘why is she not black’. And my favourite dolls were black. 

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