The Girl with the Colorful Mind
(c) 2004 Anglea K. Mack
Photo by Angie Mack Reilly
Joy was playing in the corner. She loved the fresh smell of wood in the woodworking station in Mrs. Garphy’s kindergarten room. She especially enjoyed that particular spot because it was quiet. Other than the music corner, it was the only place in the room that made any sense to her. The corner enabled her to think, to feel, and to be her own person. The other children usually preferred the train station, the housekeeping station, and the painting station which left the woodworking station to be a place of solitude. It was a place where she could explore with her hands and her mind as she whistled like her father.
“Joy, it’s time to clean up and come over to the art table. We are going to work on our Christmas crafts”, said plump Mrs. Garphy in her soft “teacher” voice. “I hate the art table,” thought Joy as she smelled each piece of smooth wood before dropping it into the yellow bin. She heard a lot of noise in the room. As she looked behind her, the other children were cleaning their stations as well. Marcie was cleaning up the housekeeping station. No, she was actually bossing the other children to clean up for her. “Look at Marcie,” murmured Joy. “She thinks she is so great because she has long shiny blond hair. She always has to be the mom.”
Joy hated the housekeeping station. She hated being bossed by Marcie. Joy played in there once, but never again after being told by Marcie that she had to be the “baby brother” while the other children laughed. Joy was the only girl in the room who didn’t have long hair. Her hair was different. It was black, short, and kinky. Her skin was also dark brown. She was the only brown-skinned girl in kindergarten.
When Joy and the other children finished cleaning up their stations, they walked over to the art table. Joy found a spot on the end away from anybody else. Immediately, she saw a Styrofoam plate with little pieces of red, black, and white felt. Next to that, was a plate full of glue with a Popsicle stick. Joy raised her hand. “Mrs. Garphy, what are we making?” Tying a smock around Bobby, Mrs. Garphy answered, “We are making our special Christmas gifts to bring home.”
Joy was really excited. She wondered if they were going to make Christmas stockings. Then Joy glanced over at Marcie who was whispering into Becky’s ear, looking at Joy, and laughing. Joy quickly looked back down at her art supplies. “Why is she so mean? Doesn’t she know that I could whoop her butt anyway?” Joy asked herself.
As Joy looked up to find Mrs. Garphy, she saw the funniest thing ever. Mrs. Garphy was carrying empty roles of toilet paper in her arms and under her double chin which made her look like she had a triple chin. Joy burst out laughing hysterically. “Mrs. Garphy has toilet paper rolls!” she blurted to the classroom. The other children slowly joined her with their tiny giggles. Joy was laughing so hard that she had her hands on her belly, her head tilted back, and both legs up in the air. In fact, she had to keep herself from falling backwards in her chair. “These are for our special Christmas project,” commanded the now stern Mrs. Garphy.
“Christmas project? HA! HA! HA!” Now Joy was really making a scene. Somehow, the sacredness of Christmas and the ordinary item used to wipe butts seemed like a funny contradiction to her. She couldn’t help from laughing. It was just too funny. It was just too unreal for her to grasp. “Mrs. Garphy must be playing a joke!” she shouted. But as she glanced up at Mrs. Garphy, Mrs. Garphy didn’t have a “joking face” on. She had a mean face. That mean face was glaring down at Joy. “Joy, I want you to go sit in the hallway immediately.”
Joy went out to sit on the cold marble hallway floor outside of the classroom. She hated the brown speckled floor. As she observed the floor, she noticed how dirty it was and began to scribble in its dirt. She felt really sorry. She didn’t mean to get into trouble. She wondered if, like Marcie and the other children, Mrs. Garphy hated her, too.
Joy started to get a pain in her stomach and held it tightly. She really wanted to go home. She thought about playing in her neighborhood with her other friends who looked and acted a lot more like Joy than the children in the suburban school. Joy thought about how she played jump rope with Tisha and Natasia just the day before. Joy began to rap their favorite jump rope song, “Donald Duck is a one-legged, one-legged, one-legged animal. Donald Duck is a two-legged, two-legged, two-legged animal…..” She hit her hands on the cold marble floor as she sang. She noticed how when she slapped the floor, it made a nice high-pitched drum sound. Then she looked up at the classroom door that was shut. She wanted to bang on the door to see how it sounded. But she restrained herself.
Suddenly, Mrs. Garphy opened the classroom door. “Are you ready to do your art project now?” she asked.
Joy answered an obedient, “yes”.
When Joy walked into the classroom, she saw a little Santa shaped like a toilet paper roll. She really wanted to giggle but instead she bit her lip as hard as she could. Joy dutifully made her toilet paper Santa with her plate of felt and her glue. She topped it off with a cotton ball beard and set it to dry.
Next, it was music time. This thrilled Joy tremendously. She loved to sit right next to the piano and sing. However, she didn’t like looking at Mrs. Garphy’s big bottom in her brown polyester pants as she sat on the bench to play. They sang “I’m a little teapot”, complete with hand motions. Then they sang “Where is Thumkin?” Joy liked that song. She loved putting her fingers behind her back only to bring each finger in front of her at the appointed time. Joy pleaded, “Mrs. Garphy, can we sing it again?”
“Of course!” she answered.
Joy held both hands behind her back. As she eagerly waited, she felt a hard tug on her hair. “Ouch!” she whispered and turned around. It was Marcie. “You’re stupid”, whispered Marcie. “You stink, too!” Joy tried to ignore her. As Mrs. Garphy played the piano with her back away from the children, Joy decided to handle Marcie on her own by ignoring her. Marcie continued to poke Joy in the back. “Nobody wants you here”, whispered Marcie. “You don’t belong here.” Even though Marcie’s poking hurt Joy’s back, Joy continued to ignore her. Marcie started to kick Joy. “Everybody hates you! You’re black!”
Just then, Joy felt something like a fire burn inside of her belly. She was angry. She was so angry that she wanted to stand up and punch Marcie in the face. But, instead, she closed her eyes. She began to sing to herself, “I feel red, so red. I’m mad and my mind is red.” She hummed the tune that immediately popped into her mind. Then Joy thought about Marcie bossing everybody in housekeeping and how she was envious of her long blonde hair. With the same melody she sang, “I feel green, so green. I’m jealous and my mind is green.” Continuing with her eyes closed and shutting out everything and everyone around her, she thought about being in the hallway and how rejected she felt. She sang, “I feel brown, so brown. Nobody loves me and I feel so brown”. At this point, Joy was in some other realm. She was completely oblivious to her surroundings. With her eyes closed, she hummed and sang the lyrics in her head, “I feel light blue, so light blue, when I do what I like to do. I feel yellow, so yellow. When I’m happy I feel so yellow. I feel white, so white. When I obey I feel so white”.
By this time, all of the children and Mrs. Garphy were staring at Joy. Joy finished her song in her head and then opened her eyes. Even Marcie was still. Everybody was still and staring. Mrs. Garphy broke the silence, “What are you singing, Joy?”
Joy answered, “It’s nothing….just a song in my mind.”
“Can we hear it?” asked Mrs. Garphy.
A confidence swept over Joy. “Yes, you may.” She stood up, cleared her throat, and sang:
“I feel red, so red. I’m mad and my mind is red.
I feel green, so green. I’m jealous and my mind is green.
I feel brown, so brown. Nobody loves me and I feel brown.
I feel light blue, so light blue. When I do what I like to do.
I feel yellow, so yellow. When I’m happy I feel so yellow.
I feel white, so white. When I obey I feel so white.”
Mrs. Garphy and rest of the children (besides Marcie) stood up and clapped. “What a talent!” Mrs. Garphy boasted. “Joy, we are so happy to have you. Thank you for sharing with us your colorful mind.”