I managed to sit still long enough to make it to the intermission.
I see giant white boards with musical lines on the walls, and markers calling Marcel’s name.
We’re in a big recital/classroom on a college campus filled with college kids to see my friend Hassan play piano.
The same friend who stopped by the night before to invite me to the show. Who came by to hug on me, my brother and mom during his forty-eight hour visit back to Maine.
The friend who went to this college, graduated with honors, and is a nationally known jazz pianist. The one who looks like you, is taller than an oak tree, and speaks as softly as the brook on the edge of a path he and you are following wherever it will take you.
The pianist is brown. Everyone has come to listen to him. He is captivating, talented, and within my reach. He is a Black man who adores me. I will grow up and be a Black man too.
As a transracial adoptive parent: a forty-five minute drive to expose them to twenty minutes of completely extraordinary normal is part of my unspoken agreement with his first mom, with their future. This is the investment: twenty minutes that could create exponential reverberations in terms of possibility in their lives.
Thank you to Bowdoin for flying Hassan here (from Cincinnati) to play the show to raise money for the Haitian Student Alliance. Bowdoin college where Sam’s grandfather went to college. Bowdoin College where John Brown Russwurm, a Jamaican native graduated in 1824, the first Black man to graduate from Bowdoin. The third Black man to graduate from a college in the United States.
If you want to jump off a cliff with a hang glider and skis and report out to the audience that the ensuing avalanche almost killed you, be my guest. Actually, in this case I was the guest at the Branff film festival on Monday. Beautifully filmed, thrilling tales of personal challenges of the extreme mountain and sea variety.
Yes, I cried my eyes out when two young men were finally back in their mama’s arms after 60 days at on the Tasman sea in a kayak built for two. If Sam or Marcel ever has a cockamamie idea like that… I was thinking while wiping my eyes with my arm.
If you take the films selected as representational of the people who are most like to LAUNCH into the thrill seeking category, my kids have nothing to attempt to fear in the great outdoors. There was not one person of color, (or a woman) in the seven films presented that night. Many well off, and well sponsored white men bungy jumping, “skurfing”, mad road biking, and paddling through sharks and high seas. There was the occasional indigenous person with an ice pick in the Himalayas but at that point in the night, I had lost interest. Not seeing my children, or myself represented in over two hours of “award-winning” films was disengaging.
I seethed over economics and lack of exposure and modeling in the world of outdoor adventuring. I wanted to know where the videos from people like Outdoor Afro were being shown, because that is the festival I want to go to next time.
My great ah-has from all this discomfort: a) thankfully I will never be a white man in “need of extreme gravity” and b) that doesn’t mean others aren’t and c)it took six years but my personal entertainment consciousness has shifted dramatically as the result of my parenting transracially.
Out here in the blogosphere we talk a lot about our parenting shifts, our curriculum needs, the resources we seek. But what about how you, as transracial parents choose to entertain yourselves? Have you noticed yourself becoming in practice more of an adult consumer of color- someone who wants to support businesses, musicians, films, books, and the like that represent, engage, educate and speak to your parenting in the hue too? When do you notice your shifts? Where is your balance?
Speaking of entertainment for my Cumberland County Maine readers there is a show at Bowdoin College tonight, featuring this virtuoso alumni, and mentor and good friend Hassan Muhammad from 7:00-8:00, doing solo piano to raise money for Haiti. We’ll be there in pajamas for the first half at least. His myspace is here, but thought you’d like this too.
Marcel was playing with his Legos, while I was working on yesterday’s Letter to LePage. I missed the first part of this conversation. I tuned in loud and clear when I heard; OK Daddy you can have my light saber. Then I watched a masterfully orchestrated dance between a Storm Trooper guy, a little Lego guy and a big Playmobil guy. Sometimes they are “guys” and sometimes they are “friends”. The conversation continued:
No to the hat, no to the music, no to any kind of organized movement.
Yes to Mr. Potato head in the plastic box in the other room.
Yes to sitting in my lap, and yes to running up and down the halls of the old converted mill.
No to the table of mostly ballerinas seated for pizza and cake.
Yes to the “grown up” folding chairs around the periphery.
He loves his ballerina friends, and loves to dance. But he remarked, “my moves stay inside the house Mom. If I wanted to take them outside I would go dance in the park, or on top of the car. Not in a loud place with so many people inside.”
I am still working out my own opinion of the “Princess Boy’s” mother’s choice to invite a five year
old into the media maylay over his story. For a compelling discussion on the topic please see My Brown Baby’s post here.
In my case, I was just happy that for once, I let him do what he wanted, and didn’t sweat the small stuff. He had a blast actually, and so did I.
Last Friday, that little workshop I co-organized with Adoption Mosaic, in the other Portland, (Oregon) for over seventy people, that spanned two days, and lasted well over ten hours, happened. Five months, in the making, and hundreds of hours of calls, emails, flyer postings, conversations, and pleas to attend and it happened. Astrid flew across the country to meet me in the library auditorium a couple of hours before we opened our doors to the eager parents assembled to tackle workshop 1: Adoption Issues in Schools.
If you build it, they will come…
And they did. And then they came back, the next day for more, and many others came too. And they listened, and relaxed, and wondered, and reached out, and drank the donated coffee, and enjoyed the donated ice cream on the break. They got teary, withdrawn, emphatic and wide-eyed. They struggled, and laughed, and disagreed, and embraced.They stated that leaving that room on Saturday would be too hard, because they had finally found a place where they felt safe… And then it ended. All of that work, that intensity, that connection had an end point. I thought I would be relieved when it was over. I was stunned. It had gone beautifully, but hadn’t it only begun seconds ago? We have so much more to cover…
When Astrid called me from the airport for our first debrief, I sat in my car behind the library’s loading dock,feeling like I was supposed to be there with her, heading away from all this, and going away with her as I too was under her incredible spell. I too wanted to believe that she had all the answers if I could just spend a few more hours with her.
Back at home, with my children screaming with joy that the workshop was over and now we got to have our mommy back, I looked at them through freshly pressed eyes. As I squished them to me, I whispered to myself; I have so much more to do to make the world right for you. I have only begun.. At the same time, I was flying, still high in the exhilaration of having pulled it all off, with a lot of help, and grace.
Then a few days later the emails came in asking for; “HELP”, and “WHAT NOW?” The realities of being parents, or waiting parents in a formed by adoption mixed race family was taking hold of some of them in new and unexpected ways. You mean, coming to the workshop wasn’t enough? Now I have to PROCESS too??? And ACT?? But, how the hell do I figure out where to begin? How do I find my daughter a mentor? How do I help my son see himself as a Black man in an all white state? How do I have that conversation with my uncle about all of the ignorant things he says around our kids? How do I know when I have done enough? Of course no one ever asks that question.
You go to more workshops, and talk to more people, and you keep talking about everything that makes you this uncomfortable for a start…
So, of course “the work” of talking about race, racism, development, creating community and creating change personally, and outward from there has not been cleaned and aired out like the cooler that held the brown and white ice cream tubs. Vanilla? Chocolate? Or Mixed? Even the damn ice cream flavor combinations seemed to scream out at me last weekend; “YOU ARE NOT A WHITE FAMILY. DO YOU KNOW THAT? DO YOU REALLY KNOW THAT? NOW?!”
It’s time to schedule a follow up gathering. A potluck, and playground, and a chance to sit next to someone you met there, you know at the workshop, and tell them how amazing your child is, and how helpful it is when another parent, another person can see them for who they are with you. Someone else who knows that you have a long, long way to go before you place yourself anywhere other than on the awareness rung of the cultural competency ladder of your child’s ethnicity and race. But that for today, having your hands firmly on that one, is something you’ll be holding onto for dear life until you learn how to reach up towards the next rung; capability.
More from the workshop, as I land into my own synthesis mode over the coming days and weeks. OK, more from Mama C period when I regain some tangible sense of reality and control around our collective lives over here. Co-planning a workshop, while working full time, and being a single mama, just ain’t no joke. Stay tuned for more tails from kindergarten, life as a dating single mother, magazine and book reviews that you must know about, links of love, and spitfire wit and wisdom from One and Two.
I’ll leave you with this from my “medieval knight- fire chief-cowboy” Marcel on getting ready for his preschool Celtic Halloween Celebration yesterday; No they don’t! Fire chiefs who wear helmets and boots DO NOT WEAR SOCKS!
Full of swimming, soccer, gardens, bugs, frogs, friends, sand in our shoes, ice cream.
Full of sun.
Full of finding each others newness in the fabric of this family again.
Full of goodbyes. Two of the families we hold nearest to our heart, are taking flight to unknown (to them and to us) lands in Columbus, Ohio and Lesotho in Africa. These losses feel like deaths. I trust that they will transform into shared journeys, and opportunities for shifts. But today, they reach back so far to a little pre Mama C me who can not bear to be left, again. She rages in a puddle full of tears. I want to hold her, and let her go. More good grief I suppose. Celebrating our friends’ brave departures, and leaps of faith to their new. Grieving that it is not me who is leaping too. Grieving that somehow what we have and offer is not enough to keep them here.
Joyous that what they seek, is something possible, and bigger than we imagine here.
This morning I met one of my oldest and dearest for a little cup of tea and a check in. When she asked me if I had been writing today (she is a fierce champion of my creative endeavors) I paused for a moment before guiltily responding; No but I did cross about twenty other things of my list. Then I rebounded when I remembered I had met two deadlines this week that I hadn’t even mentioned to her or you all for that matter:
The mothering rage conversation started here has taken on more life over at Moms of Hue on my piece by the same name. Join in and share your feelings about parenting and rage.
My thoughts on how I have, and how others might drop the ball on Marcel’s need for his own cultural literacy and heritage exploration begins over at Mixed and Happy with the post I do for them monthly. This one is called; Teaching the teacher to see her entire blended family.
Publisher’s Weekly Shelftalker piece on the Elephant in the Room of Children’s Literature (about the crisis in the lack of literature for and about children of color and what the publishing industry should do about it) includes a fantastic list of resources for many who have asked how to get your hands on great books for children of color, and all children featuring characters and content of ethnic, gender, and economic diversity for starters. Several of the bloggers you have been introduced to here in various ways appear in that article–including Annie Sibley O’Brien and Susan from Color Online.
And finally a special nod to the blogger behind, On the Mommy Track who came up to me at a park where the boys and I had happened upon a magical rehearsal of squires and pages and the like. She introduced herself saying that she knew me from my blog, and loved reading about our family. It was a great moment, and her generosity is what I wish to return here with a little linky love.