Friday, April 22, 2011

Obama's Mama

Last night I read The New York Times article by Janny ScottObama's Young Mother Abroad. If you haven't read it yet, you should. It's fascinating. And sad. And illuminating. And honest. And thoughtful. And inspiring. Here is one of the photographs from the article that, in addition to Scott's story, got me thinking:

Barack Obama with his mother in Hawaii. Image is from The NY Times article mentioned above. It was lent to the newspaper by Friends and Family of Stanley Ann Dunham.

First of all, can you stand how adorable he is? You can just feel how excited he is to be dressed as a pirate. He's bursting with unadulterated joy. Man, how the trials and tribulations of his American presidency have sucked that simple, untouched, happiest kind of happy right out of him. And still, he remains more composed and graceful than I would ever be in his position. But lucky for this country, I would never be in his position. Dude, if you think the budget is screwed up now? Math is not my strong point. And neither is multitasking. Or details. Or a long attention span. Or keeping my mouth shut/holding my cards to my chest. Or staying focused. On that note...

Here are my top ten all-over-the-place thoughts in numerical order of how they popped into my head last night while reading the article:

1. Really? Barack's grandparents named his mother "Stanley"? Cruel, but ballsy, too, and somehow interesting in a unique kind of way. Will Sabine hate me one day for choosing "Vincent" as her middle name? I hope not. I love it. It was my mom's middle name (she passed away before Sabine was born) and my dad's nickname for her.

2. Stanley Ann Dunham was NOT "stout" or "sturdy." Look at her! What is wrong with people? Whomever uses this description for her needs to eat a taco and free their mind.

3. I can't help but gaze at this photo and marvel at how completely different they look and wonder how she felt about that. It puts me in the position of passersby who see me and Sabine walking down the street together. Of course people wonder if she's mine or if I adopted her (see yesterday's post). Even though I understand this fact, it still sucks. And is painful. I can't yet articulate why.

4. It's sad to me that Stanley sent Barack to Hawaii to live with her parents and wasn't so present after that point.

5. It's beautifully generous of Barack to put himself in his mother's shoes and accept and love all of who she was and the choices she made:

"But he did not, he said, hold his mother’s choices against her. Part of being an adult is seeing your parents “as people who have their own strengths, weaknesses, quirks, longings.” He did not believe, he said, that parents served their children well by being unhappy. If his mother had cramped her spirit, it would not have given him a happier childhood. As it was, she gave him the single most important gift a parent can give — “a sense of un­conditional love that was big enough that, with all the surface dis­turbances of our lives, it sustained me, entirely.”

6. I'm relieved that it's no longer against the law to be in an interracial marriage (and this is part of why I am pro marriage equality and gay marriage.

7. I'm thankful that Sabine will hopefully never have Barack's Indonesian experience:

'"After lunch, the group took a walk, with Barry running ahead. A flock of Indonesian children began lobbing rocks in his direction. They ducked behind a wall and shouted racial epithets. He seemed unfazed, dancing around as though playing dodge ball “with unseen players,” Bryant said.'
8. I read about people questioning whether or not Obama is a terrorist and labeling him Muslim (which people, sadly, seem to think is synonymous with being a terrorist) or going on and on about how he's not "from here" or is a "foreigner," like that's a dirty word and this somehow makes him less worthy. I  read these things and I think it's as if he's still getting rocks thrown at him because he looks a certain way or because people can't wrap their heads around where he's from. And he's still handling it better and more gracefully than I ever would.

9. Stanley Ann Dunham was an incredibly brave woman, who had Barack when she was 17 years-old. Sabine has rocked my world and I can't imagine having that much responsibility at that age. Let alone being...

"...a girl with a boy’s name who grew up in the years before the women’s movement, the pill and the antiwar movement; who married an African at a time when nearly two dozen states still had laws against interracial marriage; who, at 24, moved to Jakarta with her son in the waning days of an anticommunist bloodbath in which hundreds of thousands of Indonesians were slaughtered; who lived more than half her adult life in a place barely known to most Americans, in the country with the largest Muslim population in the world; who spent years working in villages where a lone Western woman was a rarity; who immersed herself in the study of blacksmithing, a craft long practiced exclusively by men; who, as a working and mostly single mother, brought up two biracial children..."

10. Stanley and Barack have the same chin! So pointy, right?!


Ellen @ Black and White and Loved All Over said...

OK now I'm pretty sure I couldn't love your blog more! Thanks for directing me to this article. Can't wait to read it. Also I appreciate your perspective and really love your voice!

Laura Mauk said...

Thank you, Ellen, for the kind words. I'm really so flattered and happy to e-meet you, too!


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