1978. Poem by Tara Schley


Before: my Uncle, Dr. Stephen Lowe was murdered
in a home invasion in Prince George, B.C.

by a teenage neighbour,

I was told later the neighbour did it for money for drugs, something, before that my Mother owned a beauty salon.

It was nineteen seventy-eight,

I was four years old at the time. Many mornings after
the sitter dropped my sister off at her elementary school,

we'd go to the thrift store.

The sitter would browse the clothing, I'd gaze at the
glass display cabinet at the check out counter that was

filled with costume jewellery,

bobbles, bits and bobs, curiosities, trinkets.
Trying to find a treasure to spend my $1.00 on.

There was always a beautiful lady there.

Maybe she owned the store. Maybe she was an employee.I was only four, that information, unknown.

The beautiful thrift store lady

was tall, to a four year old anyways. She dressed in flowing dresses pattered of bright big flowers, she made a soft

wind on my face when she swooshed by.

She was never without multiple wrist bangles that would clink when she moved her arms and hands.

Clink, clink, clink.

Her hair was a large crown of dark shiny curls that bounced when she moved her head. Her skin glowed warmth and

shimmered in the light.

The thrift store lady didn't just speak to me, she conversed with me like I was an adult and just possibly she cared what I had to say.

The nice thrift store lady

would give me discounts on the bobbles, jewellery, treasures I wanted if they were more than my $1.00. Up to 50% off.

Always she smelled wonderful.

When she swooshed & clinked by me, she took the musty, dusty faint mildew odour of the thrift store away.

I was a four year old in love, enthralled.

One day, I told my babysitter when we were back in her car,
that I was going to look just like the thrift store lady

when I was a grown lady.

The sitters eyes went wide. Shocked. She laughed and told me I
couldn't look like her as I had white skin and she was

'Black'. I started to cry

from that new information.She scolded me, told me that I
didn't want black skin, anyways, that white was better.

told me to stop being silly.

When we arrived home I stared at my tear stained face in the mirror. Really seeing for the first time my skin.

My skin was white

and it couldn't ever be black like the sitter said the thrift shop ladies
skin was. My skin didn't look 'better' to me. Again, I cried. I thought

we could change our skin colour

like my Mother changed the ladies hair colour in her salon. Later my Mother, the sitter laughed in the kitchen.

Not long after that my Uncle was murdered,

my Father lost the business they were partners in, my Mother
sold her beauty salon, they sold our family home.

We moved away

to where my Father obtained employment. I never saw the beautiful and nice thrift store lady again. Though she

has remained the most beautiful lady I've seen.

Her hair, skin, bracelets, the soft wind from her flowing dresses
when she walked by etched in my memory and

I still wish to look like her.

The other day I smelled an essential oil candle. It took me back to being four years old, that thrift shop,

the thrift shop lady and her perfume.

Ah! Patchouli! That was in her perfume! A main fragrance ingredient but not the only fragrance note in it.

there still are others missing.

If I knew what the others were I'd make a perfume and I'd call it,
'After: 1979, a fragrance of a memory of a beautiful lady and

lost innocence'.

Tara Schley.

Thursday, December 23, 2021
Topic(s) of this poem: racism,race
A non-fiction poem.
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