Friday, November 20, 2009

Titter loves her little sister

Thirty-six years ago today, my life changed. At the time, I was six and very angry about this change. I had been the apple of my parents’ eyes.

Wrapped in a blue-green receiving blanket, something wiggled. The thought of something so small and living excited me. So, I hurried to unwrap it. “Where is it?! Where is it?!” I kept saying. And soon, it emerged from all the layers … my new little sister.

Again, at first I was excited, then angry, then frustrated. She took a lot of my mother’s time and energy. I began packing paper bags to run away. But most times, I would make it to the end of the snow-lined walk and turn around, saying, “I’ll wait until the weather warms up.”

When my mother died, we found many things that she had saved. There were two letters in which I wrote that I wished she hadn’t adopted me. Angry children become cruel. I regret that. My sister was one of the best gifts my parents could have given me. It just took me a while to appreciate it.

My sister soon grew and began talking. Her name for me was a form of sister but came out “Titter.” Six-years is quite a gap. And often, we were worlds apart. But as we became adults, the gap decreased.

She is now my best friend. And her daughter has become my daughter’s substitute little sister with an age gap similar to my sister and me.

So, today, I honor that little baby that changed my life. She’s a fine woman and mother. And our mother would be mighty proud.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A kiss of acceptance

I’ve been absent. We moved to Madison, Wisconsin, this past summer. And all is well.

During the search for schools, I made a point of looking at the ethnic make-up of each public elementary school. Having lived in a rural, almost Asian-free community, I wanted more for my kids.

Community of acceptance. I was seeking that and have been since I was very small. Luckily for me, my adoptive family’s love sustained me through my life in rural Tennessee. But I longed for complete acceptance. Even a sense that I was just like everyone else.

Yesterday at dinner, my children brought up a little adopted girl in my daughter’s class. This child is Asian and has become rather attached to my daughter and myself. My daughter wanted to know why this young girl was saying she wanted me to be her mother. I tried to explain that the little girl just wanted to identify with us because we look similar.

We also discussed how there were more Asians at this school than there were in the school in Virginia. In addition, we talked about the number of adopted children we had met. It has been refreshing seeing the unconditional love of parents here for their adopted children. It brings back such wonderful memories of my parents, and especially memories of my late mother.

Today, the little Asian girl in my daughter’s class watched as I gave her a kiss good-bye. And this little one asked if I could give her a kiss as well.

And so, I passed on the kiss of acceptance.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Latino side

I don’t often write about my Latino side. Usually, I forget about it unless someone whom I have never met in the flesh reminds me with a casual “Hola” or “Hasta Luego”.

Last night on the eve of 2009, I was reminded of the prejudice against the Latino community.

Our town of Charlottesville has a First Night celebration every year. Various groups perform, and my son performed with his Taekwon-Do group. As a perk, the group was offered entry buttons for the participants. However, in a misunderstanding, the buttons were not delivered to the school before the event.

After the performance, our family accompanied my son’s instructor, the leader of the group, over to the registration area for First Night. The Taekwon-Do instructor is a young, Latino man. The executive director of the event informed the instructor that if he hadn’t gotten the buttons beforehand then they had none for him now. While that my have been true to some degree, she was unusually curt. I sensed that she felt that the instructor was trying to pull something. She kept giving him excuses and saying she was not authorized to give him buttons.

At this stage, I stepped forward and told her that our family had already bought buttons for the rest of us, but not for the two who had been promised buttons. She then said she would see what she could do. In the meantime, a more friendly volunteer coordinator walked over and tried to help as well.

The executive director did return with 25 buttons for our group. But I do wonder what motivated her at first to resist helping our young, Latino instructor. Was it doubt? Was it skepticism? Was it prejudice? While I will never know for sure, I did sense some of the indescribable feelings that I’ve had in my own small Tennessee hometown. Feelings my father expressed when he visited the very caucasian Colorado.

It’s a feeling of being outside of a group. A feeling of not belonging. A feeling of being excluded.