Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Little White Boy In The Picture

There is a very old photograph of my mother. She is about 19 or 20 and she is holding an infant. A little white boy with slick black hair. She keeps that photo in her special photo album, the one with important pictures, of people, places and moments she never wants to forget.

For years I hated that baby. I just burned every time I saw that picture. Why? Because of the look on my mom’s face. She looks at him with this look of utter adoration and love – like he’s the freakin’ baby Jesus or something. So whenever I would see that picture as a kid I’d look at it with scorn and turn the page as quickly as possible to get to pictures of me.

It actually burned me a bit that this one little picture of him came before my pictures. But I reasoned that he must have pre-dated me so that was why. Only I never saw her look at anybody else in any other picture with such a powerful love that it practically smacks you in the face coming off the page. Once I almost took it out of the album, cause I wanted to rip it up and throw it away, but something told me she’d miss it. And I think her missing the picture would have hurt me more than having to look at her adoring expression captured on film.

Now I always loved my mom. She is awesome and certainly my best friend above all others hand’s down. I never had the “I hate my mother” phase that my friends went through. But it just hurt me that she loved that boy so much. Still she never mentioned him. So about 10 years ago we were looking through that photo album together and we came inevitably to “that picture.” I stopped and being once again overcome by it I took a deep breath and asked, “hey Mom, whose baby is that?”

She gave me the oddest look and said, “What do you mean? It’s mine. That’s YOU!”

It was apparently the photo of her holding me for the first time. Now putting aside that I thought I was a boy, and disregarding that I was so very light-skinned when I was born that I mistook my own ethnicity. I found a sense of profound relief in realizing that all this time I’d been seething with jealousy over MYSELF. I was so relieved I almost started to cry. When I told my mother this all she could do was laugh. Which of course made me laugh too, so I said, “well even though I was jealous, I always did think the kid was really cute. And now that I look closer, I was downright adorable!”

It's actually quite common for black babies to come out much lighter than their eventual skin tone. In fact in my family on more than one occasion a newborn cousin has been born so lightskinned that someone jokes "are you sure he's yours?" "Who you been sleeping with?" or "I think the hospital did a switcheroo." It never occured to me that that might have been the case for little infant me too. Fortunately my color came in a few weeks later. And of course now when I look at the picture I don't think I looked all THAT white and I was certainly QUITE feminine. It's just that picture looked nothing like all my other baby pictures where I had darkened up quite nicely and grown lots of curly locks.

But mistaken identity aside, there is something wonderful about realizing that on the day you came into the world somebody loved you beyond measure. I’ve never doubted that my mother loves me but it’s amazing to look at that photo and witness that love being introduced to the rest of the world. I guess I am thinking of it now because mother’s day is coming up and because I’m getting to the point where I am really truly ready to have a baby, (even though I am totally scared to death of it.)

I think I will go call my mom now.


Jamie Dawn said...

That's a precious story and funny too. It is a beautiful picture and a mother's love is a powerful thing.

StephTexas1976 said...

sweet.... call your mother right now!!

Sara said...

There is NO love in the whole world that can compare to the love a mother has for her baby. I have never felt anything like I do for my twins. I will never forget the day they were born and even though they definitely make life more complicated and harder, they also make my life more full and meaningful. It is scary, and it never stops being scary but it's a feeling so profound that it's impossible to understand until you experience it first hand. A father will never know that feeling.
I feel sorry for mothers who take that for granted and don't marvel in the whole miracle of creating a whole person within yourself. I trip on the whole thing often.

Girl With An Alibi said...

Jamie, stephTX & sara-
Thank you all for your kind comments. :-D

Dex2177 said...

Oh you guys... I feel like I'm floating in sugar syrup just being in this post comment area... the baby induced estrogen levels are down right scary. I did have to say though I'm just diggin' that swirly curl thing goin' on with your mother's hair, how cool is that ;-). Cheers.