Colors.

They say that who you’re attracted to is a matter of personal preference. .. at least I think that’s what they say. But then I don’t know this they, I only know us. And I’m worried that we don’t seem to love us enough to be attracted to our own.

Don’t misunderstand, here. I’m not talking about disliking “our people.” But my kids – one with a foot out the door, one just walking in, and several waiting inside at windows – don’t seem to believe that blacker berries have sweeter juice; that darker flesh has deeper roots. Tupac, where are you?

You see, my kids only know the versus to Everyday People, but somehow the concepts conveyed within the lyrics were lost. They’re not colorblind. And all people, I’m realizing, in their understanding,  are not created equal.

Last night, my son said happily, “I only like white girls.” And while I can dismiss his proclamation as innocent because his current elementary crush is a sweet Caucasian girl, I think it’s more. My  older son had, moments before, shrugged off observations of a girl’s obvious interest in him because hubs described her as the ‘pretty dark-skinned girl with the braids’ – he said nonchalantly,  “I didn’t notice. I don’t date dark girls.”  And a few weeks ago my daughter declared that she’d only marry a “light skinned guy.”

I have failed.

Among my favorite novels is The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life by Wallace Thurman.  And in it, the family has adopted a mantra akin to ‘lighter and lighter with each generation,  the better we will be.’ I’m paraphrasing here, because I don’t have the book accessible. I read the book in high school initially,  and I remember my stomach knotting over the concept that black was not beautiful or desirable and it certainly wasn’t safe or privileged.  Being black was a hereditary curse forever staining the potential of a person.

And in the wake of media outrage over police shootings and mistreatment of people of color, following obvious slants of legal rulings and punishments heavily weighed against persons of color, I suspect that curse is real. Ignorance is not bliss and I’ve seen absurd over generalizations about blacks’ propensity for endangering the public that call for something quite like genocide.

My children are not immune to this sterotyping. They know they’re judged before they speak, before they act.

And so, they are drawn to people presumably less targeted.

I really don’t care the color of my childrens’ future partners. I only wish for them to find abundant love, companionship, and understanding in their chosen confidants. But I’m bothered, no, I’m appalled that each is voicing a desire to narrow their selections superficially. Dark, light, or somewhere in between – there’s good and bad in each shade. Characters content isn’t worn on the skin.

Grandma’s gift

Begin: When I was first married,
We didn’t have much money then.
I kept a corner store account
With the owner and paid weekly.
Counting coins was my daily task –
Stretching funds we didn’t yet have.

She recounted budgeting – house wife’s work.
Scrubbing and polishing ancient furnishings new.
Saving remnants of things children outgrew,
Creating new life of the scraps.
With pride, she managed her home.
Fixing meals and nourishing their souls,
She raised strong-minded boys and girls
With the ethic of work and
Smarts to move up from bottom.

Continue: You have to plan well –
Know what’s coming in and spent.
Nothing to waste, nothing cast aside.
And always, always build them up.

She closed her eyes then, remembering.
So often she was torn down.
But never stooped under the difficulty,
Nor accepted world’s value as worth.
No, she, this woman of virtue,
Was more than what they saw.
Poor in finance, certainly was true.
But the brilliance of her shined:
Appreciation of what was, understanding of
What was not, but could be.
Deceived by her skin, cast away:
the time when color determined all.
Lighter than most, but not white;
Her status set by historic Crow.
End: You take care of home –
Of that baby, and of you.

Sure, grandma, I dismissed her then.
Holding fast not to her advice,
But to what remains forever unsaid.
The legacy of grandma is pride.

Inspired by Six Word Fridays: SURE.

Calling out

“Mom? Can we take a trip again when everyone is gone; just me, you, and Laura? ” he asks timidly. To speak it louder than a whisper would certainly draw unwanted, non-physical but equally painful abrasion from the excluded. Underlying his request is several years of feeling displaced in his own family, in his home.

No one said it’d be easy. No one warned me that he’d suffer from this merger.

My baby boy, no longer a baby at just shy of six, lashes out. He’s increasingly more volatile – the great debater on all miniscule factoids. He makes demands. He interrupts, imposing his presence in every conversation. He makes me frustrated; so frustrated that sometimes I just have to separate from him.
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My boy. The one who introduced himself to me unexpectedly.  The baby Doc said I shouldn’t carry to term because of some fluke condition a test said he possessed. My tiny, skinny son born weeks ahead of what I was certain was his due date. My screamer who couldn’t eat without the pain of reflux. My water baby. My chubby cheeked, kiss – loving gentleman. My co-sleeping, extended nursing babe. My child with the wisdom of one far older, but without the foresight of action’s effect.

At each meal, he insists, “I’m sitting next to mom.”

He randomly inquires about the  possibility of Mommy and Me days.
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He imparts himself in conversation with frequent, repetitive interjection. It’s important,  his persistence insists, and critical to present discussion

He endures possessive interference from his little sister (who borrows his “guys!?!” label as a sibling call all).

And he waits endlessly for a chance to cuddle – to just sit next to me silently present.

“Please can I sleep on your floor? Dad’s not going to hug you no more. He’s got all the time. I only got snuggle time for like an hour. Why can’t he sleep in his man cave?” he begs, boomeranging into my room 18 minutes past our first goodnight hug and kiss. 

Reluctantly,  I send him away. He hugs me tight and I kiss his forehead. He smells of my perfume, having fiddled with the bottle on my dresser and shot the potent mist all over. I reiterate my promise to photograph his Lego creation in the morning.

My heart aches for him. I don’t know how to stretch my time. I pray he doesn’t condemn me as a mom failure with evidence of my shortcomings. He is a critical piece of my heart.

I hear the familiar mantra echo in my head, ‘Actions speak louder…’

Mini Vaykay

Williamsburg, we couldn’t stay away.
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Love me when it hurts

“If we really want this thing to work we gotta go to war….” Avant, ‘When It Hurts

I better start asking “will you love me when it hurts,” because it’s hurting more and more. This blended family thing is an experiment in futility ; or at least it seems so sometimes. Inevitably,  no matter how much we profess to be all about “ours,” the “mine mentality ” seems to be underlying every decision.

If I thought children were unwilling pawns in relationship chess before, I’m certain of it now. Except I forgot to figure in the other pieces playing the board. The castle, or career and financial dealings . The Knights, our siblings. The bishops, in-laws and family elders. And though there’s only one king and one queen on this board, they often play on opposing sides instead of as a ruling, supporting pair.

Frankly,  I’m not sure I want to spend life in a game of strategic action. I’ve got apps for that. But honestly,  if the extended family is constantly invited in to cause strife and further divide, there’s no winning.  It’s one thing to confide in someone – to seek a listening ear that doesn’t connect to a wagging tongue. It’s another to entertain intrusion,  confusion and, ultimately isolation.

I’m ready to lay my piece down and declare game over. I can’t see putting children through an endless, destructive game.

This is childhood

Explore.
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Discover.
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Play.

RiAnne, 18 months.

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