Mostly what this project has done is brought me closer to Babu and shown me how similar we are. Two major aspects of similarities between us were her insecurity and her theatre life. I could relate greatly to both and even to how she only ever got the small roles.
But sometimes I see large differences between the two of us. The differences are good because often I can learn and grow from them. Sometimes the differences are something to accept and be proud of on both sides.
For example, Babu is very exacting. The bed gets made every morning, dishes are done and put away right after the meal, meals are frozen, labeled with a date, put in the freezer in chronological order and taken out by the oldest, and so on. Me? I’m just a messy mess. To be fair, Babu has always been a housewife and I have always had a career. I’ll never be a bed maker, not every morning, that’s just counter intuitive to me, especially since I lay in bed sometimes during the day to write or take naps. Ain’t nobody got time for that! But I can learn to keep things more tidy, do things when they should be done, and care a little more about feeling proud of the way my house looks.
She’s also exacting in appearance. In order for her outfit to be matching, it has to all be the SAME color, not complimentary colors, or a color with black. Lipstick shade has to match. Jewelry on for every outing. Hair done once a week. This is how she is now, it doesn’t even start to describe how she primped and preened as a teenager!
I am, again, a messy mess. Sometimes I feel just like I look like crap and then I feel like crap. It’s hard with Depression and a busy life to handle it all. However, I just went shopping! I needed an update. And caring about my appearance is going to make me feel better and going to make others think better of me. That’s just a fact. But I don’t wear makeup and I am a child of the 90s, remember the grunge rock era, everyone? I know my style appalls Babu, but at least I’m getting my style back!
There is another major difference that has been apparent since I read the first journal, and I’ve gone to write about it many times, but never have. It’s difficult to put into words.
Babu and I live in different worlds, even now. Especially back then. Her friends, her family, the people she takes the trolley with, are all white. Was segregation this complete?
If I’m being honest, I live in a pretty white world, too. (My personal one.) I am just as white as she is, the genetic test I took proved it, my family is all white except for an adopted Asian cousin and my husband is white. I grew up in an urban area, but in the white part of it. Most of the people on my street were white.
I am very thankful that when I went to school, there was diversity. There was diversity in my friends and acquaintances. There was diversity when I went to the grocery store. My teachers were diverse.
I remember going to college about a half hour from home and there was a friend of mine who thought “Wow, there are a lot of Black people on this campus!” And I said “Where?” To me the lack of diversity was a culture shock where to her, there was more diversity then she was used to.
Still, I didn’t know what true diversity was until I began to teach. I taught at a school in my same hometown, but not the high school I went to. The high school I went to, even now, is so white in comparison. I have looked at the empirical data on this (I have access to enrollment statistics for different schools) and have spent time in other schools during the ten years I taught at mine. I learned quickly that a form of segregation was still alive and well in my town.
So as a teacher I had students whose first language was not English, I had refugees and immigrants, I had many, many foster kids, kids fresh out of lock up, students from the south, students from New York, students will disabilities all along the spectrum, LGBTQ students, and very, very few white students. Often, I was the only white person in the room. I learned the difference between West Indian and Indian. (That was an embarrassing day.) I learned the fact that a Spanish word in Dominican, Puerto Rican or Mexican can sometimes mean very different things. I learned the Jamaican language is called Patois and I’ve heard Haitian Creole being spoken. (It’s beautiful, by the way.) I know one phrase in Arabic, two in Jamaican, and no where near enough in Spanish. I have learned how not okay it is for the cafeteria to punish food fights by serving only ham and cheese sandwiches the next day. I’ve seen traditional Indian dress and learned about Indian holidays. I’ve talked in length with students from Guatemala about why they came to America, how they feel about it. I have seen some girls wear a hijab with traditional dress and some with pants. I have learned that some of my average American inner city students had never seen the ocean and some had never been to the great park that is a part of our own city. I also learned some of my students never ate at a restaurant “with a menu.”
So, reading Babu’s pages can be weird sometimes. It’s a different, whiter world than I’m used to.
I hope when these issues arise, that she doesn’t disappoint me. (These issues are already rising up in the 30s, but for whatever reason, she isn’t yet aware of them.) If she lets me down, honestly, I might not even write about it. It’ll be like reading Go Set A Watchman all over again.
Either way, Babu now, while conservative on many issues, understands the value and reality of diversity. We’ve had many discussions on equality and she throws her hands up, her voice gets that high, incredulous tone and she says: “They’re just like us! They should be treated the same!” So she gets it. Is it something she learned or something she always felt? Time will tell, and if she grew and learned and changed, that is beautiful, too!