Skin Color

Patrick playing in the snow this past winter. What a dude!

NOTE: I wrote this more than a year ago (the date is above the entry), but in the midst of packing, my journal writing is limited to a few sleepy scratchings in my notebook before I drop off to sleep, so I’m posting something from the past.
I am unsettled today, with an itch in my soul.
I don’t know why.
I’m not sure I’m supposed to. Perhaps it’s spiritual warfare. Perhaps it is sinful self-centeredness. I become more aware of both as I grow older, it seems. In the past (and I confess this is still my tendency), I would fight this feeling with busyness. Do, do, do—I push down my uneasiness of the spirit when I can check off items on my to-do list.
But today I do not do that. I work out with my husband—he looks at me funny and asks if something is wrong. I realize I am sending off vibes. I tell him I do not know, but it is not him. He lets it be—that’s growth for him as well. I get a haircut, and then I take my preschooler to story time at the library. We visit afterward with the Shirley the librarian and her husband, Warren, who also works there. He will have surgery on his hip again soon. I have lost count of how many surgeries this will be for him. He does not complain.
PJ and I return home and I make him lunch and we look at books together. I brush the dog, do a load of laundry and finally sit at my computer—what I think may be the thing I’ve been avoiding all day. I am querying today—the job I like least about writing from home. I struggle with the smallness of my accomplishments, with my relative anonymity in the writing world, with the unstructured nature of freelance.
PJ runs in and out. I attach a blue arm to a Lego man who already has one red one. PJ puts the Lego man into the bucket of a toy backhoe and runs it across my office floor, making noises with his mouth. Suddenly he jumps up to show me the Lego man. He points to one arm. “Brue!” he announces. Then the other. “R-ed!” This is a new skill for my youngest, who joined our family only a year ago, a three-year-old orphan from Uganda, with almost no spoken language skills in either English or Lugandan.
I almost cry as I look at PJ, his beautiful white teeth shining so bright against his chocolate skin. He points to his arm—“Skin,” he cries—and then he touched my forearm. “Skin!”
“What color?” I ask him, laying my forearm next to his. “Black,” he says, and I wonder where he has heard this. It is not that I object to the term “black,” but it is not the color of his skin. PJ’s six-year-old brother often tells him he looks like fudge. I don’t think we’ve ever called his skin “black.”
“What color?” I ask, pointing to my arm. His eyebrows crinkle, and I laugh. “I don’t know either.”
“White?” he says, tilting his head.
“Not really. Tan maybe—a lighter brown?” He smiles, and the town siren goes off. I realize it is one o’clock, naptime. I scoop him up and carry him up the stairs, thinking about our differences in color. I know there will be times in the future when this will be a greater deal—a HUGE deal for him, but for right now we can see together—my skin, his skin, it’s both “skin” covering two souls who love each other. That is good.
I sing to him, kiss him and rub his earlobes—a little thing that is much for me as it is for him, they are very, very soft—and I leave the room.
When I return to my computer, I write this and forget query letters for a while. My itchiness has evaporated. Perhaps in that other world, the nebulous world of writing, I am unknown. But here, with my children, my husband, Shirley and Warren and the rest of my town, I am both known and called to know, to love, to share of myself.
This, too, is good.

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