Studies Article of the Week The Color of Love
01 Dec 2014 by Mari E. Jorgensen (Picture:
Albino Hummingbird, a real oddball from David Ikegami)
daily feature is the introduction to a full article published in issue
42:3-4 by Mari E. Jorgensen To read the full text of this article,
follow the link below.
I'm sitting on an antique chair in my bathroom giving my four-year-old
daughter one of her usual marathon baths, several of her McDonald's
figurines lined up like miniature divers along the tub's faux marble
edge and Suave's Go-go Grape bubbles piled high, when she cries, "Look,
Mommy!" Glee lighting her face, she holds up both hands, palms out, so
that I can see their pale, puckered skin. "I'm getting whiter!" she
cries. "Pretty soon, when I grow up, I'll be white all over—like you!"
I gaze into the sweet, eager face of my child. I stare at her, stunned.
All parents, I tell myself, have known moments like these. Moments when
we feel infinitely ill-equipped to answer a question, respond to a
comment made by a person who is purportedly less experienced, less
intellectually developed than ourselves—a person over whom we have been
given stewardship but who nonetheless holds it so easily within his or
her power to throw us for a loop.
To buy time, I dip water into the blue mixing bowl I use to douse
Hannah's dark ringlets. I glance out the window, barely registering the
riot of fall color on the mountainside, a view that would normally evoke
from me at the very least a sharp intake of breath. I swirl my finger in
the cloudy water. Finally, I go back to my daughter's expectantly
upturned face. "Why?" I say. "Why do you want to be white?"
"I want to be white," Hannah reiterates, in case I missed it the first
time, "because I want to be like you."…
It comes to me with a startling, bell-like clarity what I should say. At
other times when Hannah raises difficult issues, I often find myself
humoring her, following the path of least resistance, telling myself
that going the battle-of-the- wills route with her over a point she's
gotten into her head is futile. "Uh-huh," I often say, "that's right."
But this, I know, cannot be one of those times. This subject is too
important. "No, sweetie," I say, "you won't. You will never be white,
not when you grow up—not ever."
"Because Heavenly Father made you brown and he made me white."
Hannah pauses, seemingly contemplating the pile of bubbles in front of
her. "You mean," she says, "I chose?"
I do a mental blink. Hannah's conclusion is at best a logical leap. But
it is also, I realize, as sound as they come. "Yes," I say, "you chose."
When I think of Hannah and her connection to me—a connection that goes
beyond genetics, beyond the umbilical cord that never bound us
together—I think of an evening drive up Provo Canyon with a heavy-lidded
Hannah buckled into her car eat in back, music trilling softly from the
radio. It was a cloudless night, with a new moon rising over the
snowtopped mountains and casting an eerie, bluish glow over the cliffs
around us. It was, I felt, a gift of unadulterated beauty. I was struck
speechless. But not Hannah. From the backseat piped a small voice:
"Look, Mommy! The mountains—they're glowing!"
My thoughts exactly.
I think also of a phase that Hannah went through in which she was
attempting to define the world around her. Often during this phase, at
odd and unforeseen times—in the car on the way to the bank or to her
ballet class—she would say contemplatively, "I don't belong to Miss
Katie (or Uncle David, or Sister Herway, or any one of the other people
who populated her world), do I? I belong to you."
"Yes," I would answer. "You belong to me."