Living with Brown People

DSCN0210I don’t think about it mostly.

When Juan and Crystel were little I used to think I was brown. Brown was all I saw. It was reflected back to me in their brown skin, their dark-brown eyes set above strong cheekbones, and their wide smiles. They looked just like me, or so I thought.

Except when we traveled to Guatemala, their birth country. While packing for our trips, I would suddenly realize that I wasn’t brown, and would worry that the United States would think that I stole the children.  When I packed to return to the United States, I would worry that the Guatemalans would think that I stole the children.

I carried a variety of documents to combat this worry: Passports, citizenship papers, Social Security cards, birth certificates, even family pictures.

On our last trip a few weeks ago, Juan and Crystel were 13 years old. I didn’t have to pull out any documents at all besides the passports. I realized that I wasn’t even worried. Maybe the authorities figured since they are teenagers they have a voice. And, I tell you, they have a voice.

IMG_0673 (1)I don’t think I’m brown any more. The children aren’t around enough for the mirror reflection. Now they are off playing the flute in parades, running cross country practice, even trying to find that darn Pokemon that’s floating around who knows where.

I’m white. These days, my conversations with my daughter lean towards – whether or not her tan foot and ankle will match her brown leg if she hangs it out the car. My son wants to know if he can have a girl over to do his eyebrows.

When I see my daughter in the parade I’m struck with how brown she is. She is so much browner than the other band members. All long slender legs and graceful arms. My son’s smile can stop me in my tracks. He’s so handsome.

Take care of them, won’t you?

They are my children.

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About Elizabeth di Grazia

An artist, I follow the nudge inside of me. This nudge led me to write Peace Corps stories, find the front door to the Loft, and to graduate from Hamline’s MFA program. The story that became my thesis for Hamline is woven into my book manuscript: HOUSE OF FIRE: From the Ashes, A Family, a memoir of healing and redemption. It’s a story about family. And a story about love–for my partner Jody and the son and daughter we adopted from Guatemala. Most days, I can be found working as a Human Resource Manager for a foundry in Minneapolis. When I am not at the foundry I may be volunteering as a Police Reserve Officer for Richfield, MN or kicking butt at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do.