I can vividly recall one Saturday afternoon; I was gingerly combing my way through the magazine bin looking for something of interest to a six year old girl, when I found these old issues of Playboy Magazine.
Apparently, some poor man’s wife had donated them to the Salvation Army. There were nearly three years worth. How did a six year old girl confront the bin of sex and profanity? She climbed into the bin and began looking at the pictures. Never had I seen white people naked before and why didn’t they have stretch marks like my mother?
The sight of me holding up the magazine in a vertical pose momentarily stopped an elderly woman passerby in her tracks. Knowing instinctively that my mother most likely had no clue of what I was doing, the woman signaled to a clerk who recognized me as a thrift store regular and identified my parental counterpart.
“And what exactly are you doing?” my mother asked.
I was too little and too naive to tell a lie, so only the truth came from my lips.
“I am looking at pictures of naked people, “ I said. “Will my lumpy things be as big as this woman’s someday?” I showed my mother the picture of a blond woman who must have been a 38 D. Mother looked sharply at the magazine and struggled to pry it from my hands.
She shook her head at the store clerk. “These things have no business been out in the open alongside kids books.”
Grabbing me from the bin of filth, mother dragged me to the vintage section where I found an old 30’s day dress to play with. Often I wished that I was born during another time period. Then I could wear fancy frilly lace clothing, unlike the bell bottom jeans of the 70’s. And I would be a woman with breasts too. I put another dress on; it appeared to be really, really, really old- almost Victorian. I felt myself living the period. I thought I looked like the women on Gunsmoke.
Mother was nearby and I walked towards her with the dress on dragging it in the dusty floor. “Momma what would I be if I wore this dress when it was made?” I asked hoping she would tell me that I looked like Kitty.
She twisted her lip while looking at me for several seconds “You would be a ragamuffin slave.”
She was apparently referring to a time when I would not be blessed with the ability to read or write especially discarded Playboy magazines. Ah, the magic time machine does not work for little girls who looked like me. Until someone invented a contraption that could sidestep that minor nuisance called slavery, there would be no time travel for brown folk. I could never really dream of being Lady Godiva or Betsy Ross, because I would have been in someone’s kitchen. Even Wishbone the Jack Russell Terrier with a penchant for time travel would not have to worry about landing in a cotton field doing hard unpaid labor.
Lucky for me there are still relics of the times, I will never live residing in someone’s dusty antique shop. It doesn’t matter to me what the original owner of a Victorian wedding gown would have thought of my being African American. The gown is here now in the present and so am I. It is my job to make sure it survives in the future so someone else can time travel vicariously. My 1956 DeSoto causes a flurry of onlookers as it sails down Main St. to a local antique mall.
Imagine that there was a day when it was just an ordinary car which looked no different than the other cars on the street. Then slowly they all disappeared, junked, destroyed, and left behind for scrap metal. I wince whenever I think of what would have happened to my DeSoto had she not been taken care of for over 50 years.
Memory suicide, I think while shaking the thought of her lying in a junk heap.
The sun was shining brightly this Saturday, the turquoise blue and white DeSoto , its size 34A breasted owner and a frisky Dalmatian pulled into a parking spot right in front of the antique shop. The eyes of onlookers gave her a round of applause.
No one noticed the BMW SUV or the Harley Davidson motorcycle sitting next to us. A bearded man carrying a bag of groceries gives me the thumbs up signal. Now who says a black woman cannot travel through time and space?
Autographed Letter Signed,