Monday, May 18, 2009

A Wife with Brown Skin


My son and I are in the midst of a particularly lovely stretch in our relationship. Dozens of hugs and kisses "just because", endless conversations, it's as if we've just fallen in love. But rest assured we're not veering into spanking the monkey territory.

At 4, he's a full fledged character, perfectly capable of driving me insane, but lately we've reached an accord. I'm desperate to hang onto it for all of the obvious reasons.

Born in late November, he was and will always be my turkey baby, though his dimpled butterball sweetness is giving way to a trim waist and angular limbs.

August marks his first year of school and the end of our leisurely weekday mornings. A couple of days ago the conversation turned to what kind of woman would become my daughter in law. Thelonious has always insisted that he will have a wife, even when I give the proper progressive parent speech about life long bachelorhood or partnership with a man.

I asked what the wife would look like, prompting him with a series of questions about her personality. Purposefully avoiding any mention of the future bride's skin color.

Which is odd because race is part and parcel of our lives as an inter racial family. I don't hesitate to bring it up, whether it be to celebrate, impart difficult information, whatever the context of the situation calls for.

But I held my breath when Thelonious demanded that I ask him what color skin his wife will have. In a later conversation my husband suggested I should have responded that it doesn't matter. And of course it doesn't.

And yet...

My heart swelled and soared when my son proclaimed that he wants a wife with brown skin, just like mine.

I know there are people in multi cultural/ethnic relationships who struggle with class, privilege and race issues. My husband and I have plenty of gender based baggage to sort through but I honestly cannot think of a time when I have ever felt that my blackness (or his whiteness) created a sizable chasm.

I feel at home with Jim's extended family. My in laws, born shortly after the depression in Ohio and Kentucky have treated me like a beloved daughter from the day I met them. Visiting them doesn't require dodging racial land mines, they taught their son equality and respect for all people and practiced what they preached long before I joined the family landscape.

But I would be less than truthful if I didn't admit that the thought of a black, brown, or darker than a paper bag daughter in law doesn't fill me with glee. As if being something other than white will bind her and by extension my son closer to me.

Then I think of my sister's rancorous dealings with her first mother in law, my own mother's tenuous relationship with my brother's wife (all black on black crimes) and the various black women who I have loathed during the course of my life...

Given my own family tree, with it various shades, from deep ebony to peach, I knew that there was a good chance that my children would not inherit my medium brown skin tone when I married my transparent American born Euro blend husband. And they are light, bright, damn near white.

By procreating with Jim, I've achieved "the pretty mixed babies" that are the desired offspring for many of the misguided guests who used to populate The Ricki Lake show and now find airtime on Tyra.

But I've always loved my skin. Well suited for any color of clothing, smooth and rich. Radiating warmth during winter months, transformed by the sun in the summer to a darker hue with interesting undertones as varied as my moods.

So even though what I want most of for both of my children is the deep bottomless ocean kind of love I share with their father, I wouldn't mind if it came in a mahogany or ebony package.

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