Sunday, June 6, 2010
Mister has added some swagger to his stride lately and the parents, if not the siblings, are amused. After two years under his mother’s apron, he is showing his face and evidence of his Ethiopian name, which means Dominator. His first father gave it to him at birth and we have been waiting to see the blessing of his name manifest.
And like food and wine, swagger has a perfect pairing: trash talk. Ever since the melanin experiment and Mister’s realization that he was the undisputed owner of a ‘most’ his speech has been dominated by comparisons. Almost everyday I pour a glass of milk for his lunch and he guzzles it like a co-ed in a bar. “I’m a big drinker. Sis is a tiny drinker.” It is not enough that he is great. His daily efforts at greatness are focused on chipping away at the legs of the pedestal on which she sits. He shows us his muscles and points to the places on his arms and legs where he stores the proteins and vitamins of foods recently digested.
“Mister, all that healthy food is making you so strong!” I comment. He tips he head and shrugs.
“Ya, I am detting so big and tall. And Sis is so short.”
“But she is still taller than you.”
“Ya, but I am older dan Sis and taller dan Sis because I can touch her neck.”
In matters of comparison, the scientific methods, which he otherwise employs, are tossed aside. The tree we planted for him is growing faster than hers. His scooter is bigger. So are his feet. And his bed. And his burger from McDonalds. He runs faster even when he comes in second.
Yesterday, in a scaled-down replay of The New Deal, Papi asked Mister to help move some five pound weights from here to there. I helped him with his shoes. “I see why Papi asked you to help since you are so strong,” I said as I tied. “Ya, I am very strong and I have big hands,” he said spreading his little fingers in front of my face. Later I heard him talking to his great-grandma, who had stooped to see what he was working on. “Dranma, you tan not do dis job. I am helping Papi. Your hands are too tiny.” I smiled and thought about her hands, which have scrubbed and volunteered on multiple continents.
And tonight, during a casual game of Saber-Tooth Tiger on the trampoline he scratched Sis. “Mister! You scratched me and it hurt.”
“Sorry, Sis,” he offered with appropriate remorse. Then he added, “My hands are so big.”
And most comparisons circle back to the original topic. “Ya, I am a big drinker. And I have the most melanin.” Brown skin is his trump card. His secret weapon. A positive part of his budding identity and a diamond in his pocket. And I smile hoping that next time the kids on the playground tell him he has to be the bad guy because he is Black, he will use the tools of confidence and voice that he has been sharpening at home.