Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Loose Lips Ximena

This past weekend, I was in our apartment courtyard watching Sabine play with our six-year-old neighbor, Christina. We'd only been outside for a few minutes when the front door to apartment number nine opened and out popped Ximena, another neighbor's visiting eight-year-old cousin. I engaged her because she seemed shy, but bored and like she wanted to play, too.

Me: Hi, what's your name?

Ximena: Ximena. 

Me: I'm Laura; this is Christina; and this is Sabine.

Ximena: Oh. Are you guys babysitting her or something?

Me: No. I'm her mom.

Ximena: Oh.

Me: Did you ask me that because we look different?

Ximena: Yeah.

Me: Her dad is black.

Ximena: So she's part you and part him? Oh now that you said that I think she looks like you a little bit on her face. Her face is lighter. Around her eyes, it looks like you.

Christina: What do you think is darker, her face or her legs?

Me: Her legs get darker just like yours do from playing outside in the sun.

Ximena (to me): What are you drinking? (I had wine in a plastic cup--which sounds really bad but it was a long, holiday weekend and the courtyard is mostly concrete.)

Me: Wine.

Christina: My mom drinks wine every day.

Ximena: What's wine?

Me: It's an adult drink. Like beer.

Ximena: Oh my mom doesn't drink beer because she's trying to be on a diet. She's kind of fat. But my dad drinks anything that will make him drunk. Lots of beer and other drinks. And he smokes everything, too. Cigarettes and pipes. He just tried a pipe for the first time ever and he really liked it. It smelled disgusting.

All I have to say is, thank goodness Sabine can't speak yet. I can remember my parents sitting us down every time we went certain places, telling us it wasn't okay to talk about private things in public or to strangers. I always thought they were paranoid, but I followed their direction. Now I think they were brilliant--and justifiably paranoid.

The assumption that I am babysitting or have adopted Sabine is somehow getting easier to take. I think when you hear something all the time, you start to become immune. A little wine helps, too.

Hopefully by the time Sabine is older, we will live in a place where there are more mixed families and she won't hear about how different she or we look as much as I do. And if she does, I hope her skin will grow as thick as skin can be so that it doesn't hurt after awhile.

Image by Mitch Diamond


Miss A said...

I think it broke my mother, everyone constantly asking if I was adopted. Then I also started questionning how she, with her olive skin, green eyes and freckle could have such a black child... It completely broke her. If only the people knew.
And even if a kid is adopted, why constantly point it out. I have zero tolerance. Even with kids, and while I don't tell them off like I would adults, I absolutly show them how uncomfortable the questionning makes me. Because those same kids grow up one day. Courage...

Laura Mauk said...

MissA, thx for getting it or understanding...sometimes i feel crazy/overly sensitive for thinking or feeling this way.

Miss A said...

I completely get it. Yesterday at the airport, I was talking to this beautiful little girl, about two, and at one point I said to her mom, wow, she looks just like you. And the lady, man, I felt like I had just given her a treasure. She was white, her little girl was black. And that baby looked so much like her mom...


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