When You See with Your Heart

Mary Lou Edwards

Dear Lia,

Shortly after Thanksgiving, you sat on Santa’s knee in front of the magnificent Christmas tree at Marshall Field’s, and you gave him your not very long wish list—a baby doll, a bicycle and, of course, Barbie. You had only been in the United States for 6 months, but Barbie already was your new best friend.

Daddy hurried to Carmen’s Bike Shop to order your first two-wheeler, in part because he couldn’t bear to disappoint you, and also, I suspected, because he feared getting stuck assembling a last minute purchase.

“Please don’t buy a Barbie bike,” I begged as he headed out. “I’m already Barbie’d out.”

“I’ll look for a Susan B. Anthony bike,” he teased, “or maybe one with defiant little fists waving from the handlebars.”

“I’m serious,” I said. “Girls relate to their dolls, and, if Barbie was real she’d be 6 feet tall, weigh 100 pounds, and wear a 42 FF bra. Lia does not need to be a moving billboard advertising the shameless hussy.”

“Oh, stop it. If you feel that way, I’ll order a Flying Nun bike,” he said, as he kissed me good-bye. “And get shopping before the dazzling damsels disappear from the shelves."

I enlisted Nonna for the attack on Toys “R” Us before the hordes invaded. We found the Happy Holiday Barbie, the Stupid Barbie, the Malibu Barbie, the Doctor Barbie—a few of the many little anorexics you just had to have. Taking a deep breath, I tried to select the least offensive of the idols and settled on Veterinarian Barbie and Little Mermaid Barbie. Feminist that I was, I hoped not to run into any friends who might spot the pert-nosed, Aryan femme fatales in my shopping cart.

“Guard the cart with your life,” I said to my mother. These Barbies are hot items. I’ll track down the baby dolls.” Fortunately, the human-looking dolls were not in such high demand. I found two infant dolls--one for you and one for your sister, Gianna.

I returned to Nonna who was on guard-duty with the Barbie babes.

“What do you think of these, Mom?” I asked, holding up the baby dolls. “They drink a bottle, pee, and cry. Do you think the girls will like them?”

Nonna looked at the babies. “They’re adorable,” she said, “look at the eyelashes and little bonnets. They’re so lifelike,” she marveled, “but, Mar,” she smiled, shaking her head, “they’re brown.”

“Ma,” I said, “Are you kidding me? My kids are brown.”

“What do you mean, your kids are brown?”

“Mom, my girls are from Colombia. They’re not blue-eyed blondes. They have brown skin,” I said, incredulous that we were having this genetic refresher course in the middle of Toys “R” Us while, in the next aisle, maniacal parents fought over the last of the Teenage Mutant Turtles.

“Oh my God,” said Nonna. “I never thought about it, but you’re right.”

I’m right? Now it was my turn to be puzzled.

“Ma, you’re putting me on, right? I mean, you have noticed your adopted granddaughters have dark skin?”

“Well, I guess so,” she said. “Now that I think about it, I must have, but I never really paid much attention. I mean, what difference does it make? Who cares?”

Indeed, why would anyone care? When you see with your heart, you’re colorblind.


MLSE 12/09