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  • My husband's grandmother is one of the sweetest women I know. She has been kind to me, and I adore her at least as much as I did my own late grandmother. She in turn adores my children, which is of course a great way to get me to like you, although I liked her before we had them.

    Which means that a small event on our most recent visit troubles me far more than it otherwise would - and it would have in any case.

    She was playing at something with my oldest, who was grinning like a loon at the attention, when she began the familiar nursery rhyme. I listened in indulgent amusement, grateful - truth be told - to be sitting still while someone else entertained the kids, only occasionally needing to step in as a referee. And then the words changed from what I was used to. She had NOT just said that, had she?

    She had.

    Eeny meeny miney mo, catch a nigger by the toe....

    ...wait, where's the tiger? I missed the next several words in my shock, so I don't know which of the racist versions of that rhyme I've since found online she actually used.

    And how to discuss with a child that young why we DO NOT use that word? At the moment, I am grateful that he still remembers the tiger of the rhyme, the only one I remember growing up. Catching a tiger by the toe is daring, interesting, strange...and not racist, at least, as far as I know. Suddenly one of my childhood memories is foreign, strange, worthy of questioning and uncertainty....
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