I was young, and we were leaving my grandmother’s house. I had brought with me a little native american doll my father had given me as a souvenir from one of his trips to a state far away. She had two thick ebony braids, coarse, like my mother’s hair. Her brown eyes would close under thick lashes when I lay her down. The rest of her body soft plush except for her hands. I had a lot of barbies at that age, and I kept getting white dolls. I always asked for the African-American, Hawaiin, or, the very rare, Native American ones. The dark skin had always appealed to me, as if they lived in the sun, and had more fulfilled lives. It was a childish notion, but even now I appreciate a good tan.
But my father had brought me this one, and I had not let her out of my sight for days. So while I sat in the back seat of my father’s brown explorer, playing with my doll in the shrinking daylight, my parents were telling me about something. Perhaps explaining why my sister and I have such a large gap between our ages, and how my father and his brother had a similar gap.
Unprompted, I asked if my grandparents only wanted two children. The car was silent for a moment except the hum of a country guitar on the radio.
“Your grandmother had another child. A daughter, but she died really young.”
“Was she older or younger than you?”
“She was older.”
“So you had an older sister…What was her name?”
Again, silence, I don’t think my parents were ready to explain the complexities of death to me yet, but my father answered anyway, “She died before they could name her.”
I held my doll’s hands and had her do a little dance, her eyes flying open and snapping closed.
“What would you have named her?”
The doll’s braids whipped back and forth, as if caught in a dizzying dance, rushing up to a peak of energy before she would collapse.
“I would have named her Rose, I guess.”
The doll paused in my lap. I made her sit, and I stared at her, “My doll’s name is gonna be Rose. After my aunt.”
My parents looked at each other for a second. A glance I couldn’t decipher, nor did I really care, Rose was dancing again, and I had to focus on that.