I know we seem different. After nearly three years of this way of life, I have reached a point of forgetfulness. Until we go out in public, that is. Behind closed doors, we are us. We all wake up in the morning, hungry for breakfast and the day's adventures. We grumble about beds to make, laundry to fold and toilets to scrub. We brush teeth and hair. We do school, puzzles, and art projects. We play games, blow bubbles, and skip rope. We teeter on two wheels for the first time, waving aside training wheels and a steadying hand. We struggle, get angry, repent, forgive. We pray, rejoice, weep.
Oh, and one of us is black.
Our adopted daughter doesn't black grumble. She doesn't black skip, or black weep. We don't buy only bright colored clothes that "will look good with her skin tone". If the girl wants to wear a dark brown dress, I say go for it!*
We are us.
That's not to say there aren't differences. We go through more lotion, oil and hair conditioner in one month than you do in six. There is no such thing as quickly running a brush through her hair (I'm doing good to get it done in under half an hour). We live in a world of sleep caps and braids and beads, and also dark earwax.
It's a fine line for transracial families; Celebrating without fixating. We want to celebrate the beauty of coils and cultural style, folklore and music. We want to shout from the rooftops that Sophia is one incredible girl, and part of that is wrapped up in something as simple as melanin. We also want to avoid fixating on her differences. Fixation quickly leads to isolation. She is not an alien to examine under a microscope. She is not on the witness stand and doesn't need to answer your litany of (bizarre) questions, that, let's be honest, go over her head anyway. She's still mostly "colorblind". No really, I promise you. She recently looked though some family pictures and asked if the baby in the picture was her. Heh. Only if bleach baths and hair relaxers were routine when you were in diapers.
"No, sweetie. That's not you. What's one big difference between you and that baby?"
That you are, dear.
Transracial families (by adoption or marriage) fall into an awkward category. Girlfriends want to know what it's like to be married to a black man. Kids want to smoosh the afro, and strangers remark about how you can't see the pupils of her eyes (or make other kooky statements). Honest curiosity, girded with respect is widely accepted among transracial families. We're not a scary tribe. We are simply us.
Oh, there will always be criticisms cloaked in carefully crafted sentences: "Why go to all that trouble when there are orphans right here?" Translation: This is about you wanting _________ (an exotic child, an adventure, to be like Angelina). And to the naysayers suggesting we chose international adoption, because we wanted something exotic. Let me tell you, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, exotic about carrying a frightened child you barely know through an airport, all the while feeling parasitic diarrhea splashing onto your shoes. If that is exotic, then sign me up for a trip to Boringville.
It's almost as though there is something to the old adage, "If you can't say something nice..." There's also something to the adage, "It takes all kinds." It truly does. It takes all kinds of people to create families. It takes all kinds of passions, interests, weaknesses, and yes, even skin color to build some families.
We. Are. Us. And we are uncommonly ordinary. Normal in a different kind of way. We're a zorse in a land of zebras.** Same and different.
There are so many social designations for my daughter's skin tone. There will come a day in the not so distant future that my sweet Ethiopian daughter will come to me and say, "Mama, I'm confused. Am I black, African, Ethiopian, African-American, Abyssinian, chocolate, or negro?"
And I will smile and say, "Sweet girl. You're mine."
A Grateful Zorse,
*Aside from the fact that the child could wear a mourning shroud and still light up a room.
**An Honorable Mention goes to The Professor for suggesting the analogy, "Like someone twerking in a ballroom." I don't know whether to laugh, cry or edit the blog.