Monday, March 22, 2010
Mister and I were snuggling in the rocking chair last Tuesday. It was a rare moment without sisters hovering and squeezing out the silence with a constant stream of shared feelings and authoritative concessions. “Brother, it is o.k. that you are snuggling Mom right now. I had a turn before breakfast so it is o.k. that you are having a turn right now, even though it looks like your turn is longer than mine turn and when I was snuggling, Peanut was also on Mom’s lap, so I didn’t get to snuggle Mom by myself the way you are right now. But it is o.k. because I know I will have more turns. It is no big deal. Even if things don’t seem fair every single time, I am o.k. with it. It is no big deal."
This Tuesday there were no sisters, so we rocked in silence. And when we tired of that, we flexed our muscles and inspected our hands to see whose were bigger. “I grow every night while I am sleeping. My hands are probably bigger now,” Mister informed. We checked. Palm to palm. I curled my fingertips down over his and smiled.
“I’m still bigger, Son. You better keep eating healthy foods.”
“Maybe my thumb is bigger. Put you thumb like this,” he said, giving a thumbs up. I obliged and we silently rocked. “I think you should change your skin to be like my skin,” he said plainly.
“I would like that,” I replied, dipping my head down to meet his. “It would be fun to have our skin match,” I agreed. And kept rocking.
I appreciated his honesty. And was glad both that he is aware of his beautiful brown skin and able to talk comfortably about his feelings. I did not want to stuff down his comment with lots of words, dismissive or comforting. So we rocked.
Mister mentioned skin color again at lunch yesterday, between bites, waving his fork in the air and teetering near the edge of his seat. “Who has brown skin like me?” He asked, then stuffed a bite in his mouth.
“Good question. You tell me, Son. Who had brown skin like you?”
“The President.” Anther bite and a long pause. “And Dr. King.”
“Anybody we know?” I asked.
Everyone participated. We went through a long list of famous people. A short list of friends. Our favorite characters from the books we like to read. We talked about Ethiopia. Mister slid off his chair and returned with a picture of the two of us from our first day together. We are smiling in profile, watching something in the distance.
“What about the kids in your favorite book?” I asked.
“They have brown skin too!” He jumped up and down.
While I was putting lotion in his hair this morning, he wanted to review again.
“I have golden brown skin, same as President Obama. And Jesus.”
“That is right,” I agreed, smiling. The only representations we have of Christ in our home are the ones I purchased in Addis. They are framed and hang in the dining room. Jesus, donning the meticulously cut Afro of Ethiopian folk art in three separate and famous biblical scenes, presides over our meals. Sometimes the kids talk to him. Sometimes they count the disciples, touching the glass with their sticky fingers. Sometimes they forget he is there and set him a place at the table.
In support of my son’s curiosity we did a little science over lunch today. The big kids knew something was up when I got down clear glasses, in lieu of kiddy plastic, and set them at their places. I poured the milk and we talked about its color. Then we added a drop of food coloring. Stirred. Repeated, discussing the change and strength of the color. Then they tasted the milk, which of course still tasted like milk. And we talked about skin and melanin. We touched each other’s hands, noting temperature. We pinched and stretched the skin. Talked about what happens to each of us when we get a scrape. We democratically decided that our skin is actually the same, with different amounts of melanin. Just like milk is milk, even when it has one, two or ten drops of Yellow #5. I explained that more melanin means more skin color. “And I have the most!” Mister said, puffing out his chest.