Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Family Feud



Because Mary Poppins isn't flying in to entertain my children while I veg out, we've taken to watching the Game Show Network. The kiddos are quiet and I get to relive my elementary school love of Press Your Luck.

As a result my 4 year old, hereby christened Thelonious (he's named after a famous musician, but not this one. or this one.) adores Family Feud. The other night he was particularly vocal while rooting for a family. When asked why, he replied, "Because they're black like you mommy!"

After telling him that he could root for whomever he wanted (though he wouldn't be the first blue-eyed black solidarist), I reminded him that he was half black . After examining his arm, he wanted to know where. Having been thru this talk before, my 6 year old, always happy for a chance to school baby bro, launched into a black, white, just right speech. It ended with a declaration that no matter what we look like, we'll always be half of Mommy!

My children have two grandparents of European descent. My paternal grandfather has 3. The son of a biracial mother and a white father, at 79 he has never considered himself anything but black. He once told me he consciously cultivated a speech pattern so that there was never any doubt to the world at large who he was. In the 1970s, he manipulated his fine hair into an afro with the help of rubber bands and hairspray. And to ensure that his bloodline had some melanin he married my chocolate colored grandmother.

The story of his parentage has slowly leaked down the family tree, like sap, sweet and sticky. Estrangements, abandonments, misunderstandings and loves that curdled into hatred, my grandfather's story has them all.

Now near the end of their lives, my grandparents freely discuss events that were once whispered. I'm the closest thing to a family historian that my clan has, so I mourn the tales of documents carelessly burned, personal objects set out for the trash, photographs left behind in a move.

But I meticulously hoard what's been left behind.

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