I’ve been enmeshed in the many shades of love all my life. Growing up in Texas, I played with Hispanic children from my school. The African-American woman who sometimes ironed our clothes (that was a different day and time) always brought her two children to play dolls with me. No children lived in my neighborhood so this was a special treat and my mother would often invite them back for playtime. In college I was drawn to the kindness and intelligence of a good-looking young man from Seoul, Korea. Many things separated us – our cultural differences, traditions – certainly not the color of his skin. For me, love has never been a color. It is an emotion.
Therefore, in 1980, when I was seeking to adopt an infant, it was of no consequence to me that the eight-hour old baby boy offered me was Brazilian. When I first held my son in my arms in Rio de Janeiro the only difference I saw was that he had huge black eyes and mine were blue. Dark curly hair, smooth olive skin, a ready smile – wherever we went everyone wanted to hold him.
From the day he learned to walk he didn’t want me to hold his hand and that’s when I saw his first beginnings of confidence in himself. “I do it” was one of his first sentences.
As he grew I was amazed at the ease with which he moved through life. Although an energetic little boy there was always a calmness about him.
In those early years I began to emerge in ways I could never have dreamed of. When the two of us would go out, almost always, someone would say, “Oh, what a beautiful little boy.” And then, looking at my premature silver hair, would ask, “He must look like his father.”
I will never understand why I felt it necessary to answer, “He’s adopted and he’s Brazilian?” I hate to admit it but I believe I felt the need to give a reason for the difference in the way we looked. Looking back, I felt the strong need to justify us or give info I didn’t have to. I believe I wanted us to be “normal” – whatever that means.
Through the years, regardless of age, my son never once spoke up when someone said, “Look at that dark hair.” At any time he could have said, “I’m Brazilian.” Guess he didn’t feel he had to. However, I always spoke up, “My hair used to be dark like his.” Now I think back with “What did that remark have to do with my son anyway?”
From my son I learned something about myself --- that my confidence was not as secure as his and I discovered the color issue was not as settled in my life as I thought it was. I, personally, just couldn’t accept the questions about the two of us, and felt I had to give a definition.
One day I decided to quit explaining, quit justifying and just let people think what they would. My son has taught me so much and I respect, that to his core, he has always had a depth of maturity that held at bay questions from the outside.
He didn’t need me to define him then.
He doesn’t need me to define him now.