I've never been afraid of an honest question. I don't mean blades disguised as questions or words used as hammers to bash you down. I mean earnest, open, wondering questions. It's one of the many things I love about children. Until, of course, they become corrupted by hatred and fear. Children who see my hair want to touch it, wrap it in their tiny hands and give a good tug or two. Children marvel at how much it feels like rope, scratchy and thick and usually not like any hair they could conceive of before. Children like my soft, large belly. They like the way it jiggles when I laugh. The smallest ones like to butt their heads into it like tiny goats, and my own children liked using it as a pillows. Sometimes children ask me why it is so large, but it is not malice or meanness that drives the question, simply wonder.
My family moved to Germany when I was seven and my sister was four. For many of the people in the small village where we lived, we were the first brown skinned people that they had met. We had just moved from the base to a house in Kyllburg, and we hadn't had the chance to meet anyone except for our landlady's granddaughter. The movers had arrived, and, as in any small town, the arrival of newcomers was a spectacle. My mother's smile had stretched itself thin with the tension caused by having to manage the movers while greeting the curious onlookers, and my sister and I, clearly, weren't helping. So, the two of us were sent outside to wander the streets. In a happy bit of coincidence, our new friend, Corrina, was on her way home from school and was surrounded by her friends. We spoke no german at the time, and they spoke little english, but as children do, we (mostly my sister) began playing. I suppose our new friends must have liked us because eventually, when it was almost time for us to go inside for our meals, they began to try to convey something to us rather urgently. We finally figured out that they wanted us to sneak into one of their homes so that we could take a bath. I was quite confused since no child ever really wanted to take a bath and, besides the bit of running we had done, none of us were not at the level of filth that it took for our adults to make us bathe. Baths in Germany were not simple. They required filling the tub with cold water from the tap and then adding kettle upon kettle of hot water. It was an ordeal, and everyone took turns in the water until it was gray. So my sister and I were shocked that someone would suggest such a horrible thing. Finally, through a combination of hand gestures and Corinna's broken english, we figured out that the kids believed that we had either drawn on or painted ourselves because we were both brown. Once we explained that the brown was the natural color of our skin, our confused friends just accepted it and moved on.
This is, hands down, my favorite memory about race. Our new friends were worried that our difference was something dangerous, but once they realized that our color was as natural as theirs, there was no drama, no fear, no hatred.
I am the mother of two amazing queerlets, and while the world has changed quite a bit sine my younger years, I still hate how much I have to worry about their well-being simply because they do not fit into someone else's vision of "normal." I grew up, but I never lost that willingness to ask questions and accept the answers with tolerance, humor, and acceptance. I really can't understand what it is about becoming an adult that makes minds shut and makes hearts smaller. Other people have tried to explain it to me -- how life makes you hurt and then you don't trust other people -- but my experience is that life makes you heart and then you realize you need to be more gentle with other people.
Sleep is not a friend of mine. I've tried on many occasions to make it my bestie, but it's just not happening. When it's not an inability to breathe or deal with the fact that I've eaten food, its my wretched brain. So, this song is about that.