Writing the Self 3

Writing the Self 3: I See it All the Time

Prompt: describe, in detail, your earliest memory of noticing that others have different colour skin that you – you may wish to write it in present tense in the style of yourself at that age.

It’s a hot, sunny day on the farm. Any Saturday or Sunday we woke up and it was already hot outside, with a forecasted daytime high of at least 26°C, we were going to the beach. It was our rule. Even at the ripe age of six years old, I always knew beach days. Plus, I couldn’t help but notice Mom packing up the beach bag with juice, chips and our funky-printed towels.

Chitek Lake is always our choice of beach. Not only do we have the chance of running into our cousins that reside in Chitek, a village that is only minutes away from First Nations reserve Pelican Lake, but it is also the closest to drive to, about 40 minutes.

We arrive around 12 PM, with no sunbathing time lost for Mom. My sisters and I lay out the  beach blanket and crack open our glass bottle Lipton Iced Teas; mine is peach-flavoured, as always. It always takes us a while to actually get into the water, because we don’t go in until we’re boiling hot. Who would go into a cold lake if they’re cold, anyway? Exactly. My little sister and I are the first to enter the lake. It’s populous with white people, some of whom I make friends with in the water. We splash on for a while, digging in the sand close to shore and making trenches for the water to travel in and then out of.

It’s about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. We’ve had our fair share of snacks and sand castle-building. I also notice the sun is getting a bit lower than before and my skin isn’t quite as hot. But I also notice, perhaps, a greater difference. The beach is now filled by First Nations people, more commonly to known to us as “Indians”. My Mom is saying to us, “Girls, don’t look over there!” as she summons us to look the other way. To her dismay, as a 6-year-old child, what do I know about obeying Mom’s orders? I quickly turn my head and glance toward the beach. There’s a little boy, no more than three years old, bare naked. He’s playing with his siblings or friends, who don’t seem to notice the difference between themselves, who are partially clothed, and this little boy.

My Mom, disgusted that her little girls have to be subjected to this sight (we had never seen a naked boy till this point), packs up the beach bag and makes us roll up our towels. It was getting late anyway. I am bewildered. Did they not even have underwear for this child? All the little white boys have really cute shorts and hats! But I shouldn’t be surprised; even at such a young age, I know that there is a gap between “Indians” and white people. I see it all the time.

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