Down Near the Panhandle in Texas Eating a Piece of the Sky with Jada

by Tonya Ellis

When I looked outside that Sunday morning in Texas, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had suddenly just woke up in New York instead? How could anyone confuse TX & NY you might ask? It's an easy thing to do in January. Fort Worth is close to The Panhandle in Texas and The Panhandle is the northern region of Texas. They often get snow during the winter months albeit generally just a few inches. I went out and immediately took a bowl to gather the snow up in & started collecting handfuls off of the top of my Cousin Smokey/Kerry's car to eat. Her 5 ½ year old daughter who is my second cousin- Jada- is really excited.

Jada is too young to remember the mountains of snow that Cousin Smokey use to deal with every winter living up in the Illinois area back when Jada was an even younger version of herself (about 2yrs old). She watches me as I take a handful of the fresh snow as I eat it wondering if she is going to get the stop in your tracks look that means no from her Mom Smokey. Cousin Smokey knows obviously it's not worth trying to stop a 40 year old from eating fresh snow and plus being some what Hippie Dippy herself she thinks it only natural. She laughs when I tell Jada who finds a clean handful to eat herself that It's just like eating a piece of the sky so it can't possibly be dirty!

We munch on the snowflakes for a while and I think about how 5 yr old Jada is the reason I think I should have had a kid sometimes? But than that's a two fold issue? I adore all kid critters in the age range of about 6 yrs old and under most especially the short 2 yr old toddler variety! The dilemma being the other side of the coin- I can't stand the “older” kid groups. Most especially any age that smells of teenage-ness. Which basically includes the ages of 11 ½ yrs old & up. Because even at that age I can smell their smelly preteen spirit rebellion & it really gets on my nerves. Ingrates most of them. Natural born cynic that I am- to me the older kid versions basically all just seem like potential sociopaths in the making. You know- Just like most of the adults I know & all the adults you yourself probably know as well. Anyways at this particular moment I am enjoying Jada's present 5 yr oldness.

My favorite part with Jada is the 5 yr old conversations we have. One conversation she has been initiating a lot lately is the subject of hair? I asked my Cousin Smokey her mother- Over cups of our soon to be old lady morning tea drinking sessions about this- “Jada seems to be very concerned about hair lately?”

Cousin Smokey nods her head in agreement and says- “Its the whole Whoopie Goldberg lil black girl hair thing all over again? Being a female of African descent in a culture & world that is not necessarily all that reflective of you & your hair issues is still an uphill challenge?”

“Hair issues?” I tell her I like the way she phrased that because lets just face it- The combing of Afro hair is not a fun experience generally and the longer it is? The more daunting the task. Which this is why many older women of African descent will often opt for the short fro of 1 inch or less look. This after years of working toward an outward look often times so contrary to the natural state of our hair that anything would be easier to maintain in comparison.

But at 5 yrs old no little girl has the self-confidence to risk being mistaken for a boy in a society that assigns gender according to the length of someone’s hair. Add to it an advertising world of none stop hair commercials and a show biz blitz of constant hair extensions/weaves and you've got quite the conundrum for the average 5 yr old of visible African descent. I make the distinction of “visible” because people of mixed African descent sometimes don't have Afro hair variations.

Today's celebrities often wear hair extensions across the board including many who aren't Black such as Kim Kardashian & Britney Spears. With all extended hair issues being taken into account the days we live in can make for some very hairy confusing times for many a young female regardless of race.

Cousin Smokey shows me the Happy to be Nappy info series that she shows her girls & watches with them sometimes. I tell her after I watch it that observation wise- It's still a weird sort of a zone? Because they have a handicap person in the video as a parallel to having afro hair? In my line of thinking- Is afro hair really parallel to a handicap of some sort? And yes- I realize I'm being really touchy, sensitive, & maybe reading too much into a video. I say to my Cousin Smokey only half jokingly- “I don't know if I think there is a parallel going on here between a handicap and afro hair?

After all- When the whole Mad Maxx Thunder Dome Apocalypse hits (and it will) Everyone will forget how to make air conditioning & sun block lotion and then where will we be? Back to everyone needing these afros and this dark skin we have for protection from the sun/heat! As heat travels faster off of afro hair variations so it keeps a person cooler so they don’t pass out from over heating. This is the purpose that nature originally designed this hair that we have for in the first place. You know- This all being said in the event that anyone does survive the Apocalypse?” I say.

Cousin Smokey is quiet for a moment than she agrees that I have a good point. “Yes, You have a very valid point. In a crazy Apocalyptic kind of way I guess?”

“Thanks” I say.

We both laugh about it as I finish drinking my future little old lady cup of ginger tea & lemon. This however was all before we discovered that the snow had fallen outside. The issue of afro hair is presently being overridden by the soft, delicious, snow flaky taste of the piece of sky that Me and Jada are eating.

We are simultaneously having a discussion. Jada is asking me what I think happens when we die? Somewhat alarmed at another point in my stay I had also alerted Cousin Smokey about her 5 yr old kids knack for coming up with these deep lines of questioning. “Jada comes up with some real doozies sometimes. What’s up with her and all these heavy questions?” I ask. Since I don't personally know that many 5 yr olds. Having no kids at my age you can get really freaked out by the precocious inquiries that fall from the mouths of babes such as Jada. After the “What do you think happens when we die?” question. She than asks if I think we get to come back as other people? I say I think probably so. Than she says what do I want to look like when I comeback?

I tell her that I want to come back and be the first person with Big Bouffant Naturally Pink & Purple cotton candy colored hair. Just like that character she made up in her Sims Game that she plays all the time.

She laughs and asks “How is that going to happen? Big Bouffant Pink & Purple hair? That games not for real? It's for pretend.”

I say. “That's exactly what they will ask? How did this happen? Genetically this can't be possible?” Then I'll say- “It's probably the long term generational effects of eating lots and lots of microwave popcorn with the fake butter. My family tells me I had a relative who use to really love that stuff back in the day!” Meaning myself in the here & now of course. “Then the scientists will do all kind of research and studies on the fake butter that's in that microwave popcorn that your smart Mother Kerry doesn't allow you to eat because she is so smart & she's always known for a fact that that stuff is trash!”

Jada thinks this is all very funny and breaks into constant giggles telling me about how I'm probably going to have a hard time with my Big Bouffant Pink & Purple hair!

And I say “What do you know kid? You don't even know how to speak that fake gibberish Japanese language that the Sims people speak the way I do.”

She tells me- “That can't be true since the Sims speak a fake gibberish language because that language is not real anyway!”

I say. “Be quiet smarty pants you think you know so much don't you?”

She breaks into more giggles and says, “Oh but I do know lots of things!”

I say to her “Yes you do know a lot Lil mamma” & I think-What a cool Sunday morning this is. And we continue munching on the pieces of sky that fell down from the clouds above our heads.

Down Near the Panhandle in Texas Eating a Piece of the Sky with Jada by Tonya Ellis

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