This week, I am sharing an essay I wrote in the days just before leaving for Ethiopia six months ago. It’s a beginning, really, but as I was reflecting on our six months home, I was reminded of these early thoughts I had begun piecing together and decided to dust them off and share them here. I have divided the piece into 4 parts. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. Here is the final piece, Part 4.
Back on the porch, my proactive tendency overtakes me. I call one of my dearest friends and confess my fear to her. I tell her that I do not want to do more harm than good; I do not want to be naive. Her words to me, crackling over our tepid cell phone connection, are like salve.
“What if your whole life– everything you have experienced up to this point, your own personal experiences of being the other, your growing up bi-cultural, your decision to design a major in African-American studies, your work with African-American boys, your teaching at a majority minority high school, your work capturing the stories of Latinas so that they could have a voice and a vehicle for expression in the mainstream– what if all of that was simply your dress rehearsal for this- for being this boy’s mom? What if you already have everything you need to help your son grow up here?”
The humidity of the morning dries my face. I nod, coming to understand once again how life works. We are handed the lessons we need to learn over and over again until we learn them. Once we do, they are more than just something to sit in our personal tool kits. They are the responsibilities we bear to others. And because the universe has unfolded just as it should, we—my red-headed husband and I- have everything, most of all the sensitivity and spitfire, that we need to raise our baby.
I sit in front of the television fraught with nausea and nervous excitement. I am a former United States history teacher. I came to this country when I was two years old, and I understand and appreciate how being raised here has profoundly shaped my life. Our political and governmental systems are a divine experiment that we work everyday to get right. There were moments throughout this election season when my mouth hung open in awe, hope, and possibility, but none of those moments can top this night, if it turns out as I hope.
As I watch state after state being called, my computer signals a new email. I open my inbox, my eyes searching for the message. The subject line reads, “Hey Mom and Dad, wish you were here” and a 3 month old picture of our baby boy is attached.
“No, little baby,” I whisper back to him, “I wish you were here.”
Moments later, Barack Obama, a man whose ancestry is African, is announced as our 44th President, not because his ancestry is African but because of who he is and what he has to offer as a person.
The next morning, I am talking to my mamacita about the election. I am almost out of words– because, really, its beyond words and all just about a feeling right now– but then I find myself saying, “Now, when we tell our son that he can do anything– that the world is indeed open to him, that our histories do not limit us, that our uniqueness is the personal prize we each get to carry in life, there is historical proof that he can believe us.”
I hang up the phone and drive out to the nearest newspaper box and buy a fresh, crisp edition that screams the news to put away in a memory chest, just the smallest gift for our son to enjoy one day during the future of his own creation.