Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do You See What I See?

There is a lot that we white Christian gentiles take for granted during this time of year.  The thing is, when you're part of the majority, you don't even notice it really because everything is just like you.  But, the fact is, we live in a very diverse world.  Not everyone does things the same.  There's a reason why Chinese restaurants are usually the only places open on Christmas Eve and Day.

Can I tell you how much that I LOVE that my city allowed a huge Menorah to be placed on the plaza this year?  First time I can remember this happening, yet every year we've had a Christmas tree and a whole lighting ceremony and Santa arriving, though no Nativity that I can recall... separation of church and state you know.  Which makes it all the more ironic that they allowed a Menorah.  But I digress. 

Anyone who has been sharing in Doing A 180 would have to be blind not to have realized by now that both Mr. Helen and Little Helen are brown.  Shocking, I know.  Here, let me remind you:

Brown and cute.  But I digress again.

You know, I carried that girl in my stomach for 9 months and after 13 hours of labor when she was born, she was the most beautiful thing on the earth to me.  Not the most beautiful brown thing, just The. Most. Beautiful.  It never occurred to me that things that were normal to me would look different to her, until one Christmas when she was three years old.

That year, her daycare center, which had a very diverse culture, had their usual holiday party which included traditions from black, white, Asian and Latino cultures!  They put on a concert for the parents and there was a Santa who gave each child a gift.  That year, Mr. Monroe, who was a sort of volunteer handyman around the center, played Santa. The kids loooooved Mr. Monroe and I was sure they would recognize him behind his white beard, but they didn't!  Maybe that's the innocence of 3 and 4 year olds.  By the way, Mr. Monroe was brown.

Here she is participating in the concert, cute as a button!

After the party when we were on our way home, from the back seat I heard, "Mommy?  Did you see that Santa?  He was brown, just like me!  I think he must be the real one!

If you are a mother you can only imagine what that did to my heart.  From that day on, I went on a quest to make sure my little girl felt included.   What one doesn't realize, until made aware, is that it's really hard to find holiday things that mirror other cultures.  I am not saying that it's the most awful thing in the world, it would just be nice if it was easier.  Little Helen actually didn't even ask, it was just something I felt compelled to do.  I wanted her to have opportunity to celebrate both of her "sides." After all, 'I' am not brown and I am her mother. And when she was little if you asked her what color she was, she would hold her hand out palm down and say "brown," then turn it over and say, "and white."

But still, I made it a point to try to find things that would make her feel like she did that day when she was only three:  that all the hoopla was for her too!

So my friends, I present to you Helen's Holiday Colors.  Many things I gave to her and are packed away or at her own home but these are some things she has asked me to keep for now.

One of the very first things I found was this!  It's made of cast plastic and when I would put out the ceramic nativity, I would let her have this one and put it wherever she wanted.
(Um, why yes, the angel does have a broken and glued back wing.  Compliments of Gracie. I guess it runs in the family!)

Another nativity, but as an ornament

Another ornament but this one is brown Angels!

Finally, the guy who started it all!

It pleases me that Little Helen loves these things, but she also loves our other decorations and traditions.  Maybe I succeeded in providing some of the best of both?


  1. Gosh, my heart just seized up for what three-year-old Little Helen said! Out of the mouths of babes holds true for so many things - their perception is amazing, and I remember back when my sons would say something like that, it was then that I realized that they were their own person and not just an extension of me. Also love her palm flip "brown and white" - very observant, she was (and I'm sure still IS).

    I have a brown Santa mug that my grandmother gave me one year - gave all of us one, as she had visited the Fitz and Floyd outlet and found them. Not sure anybody ever pointed out to her that they were not the usual pale Santas, but we all love them. And think of her with a smile every year when we take out our Christmas decorations. :)

  2. I love this post. And I love how you made sure to find the brown in Christmas for her. And for you. And us!~

  3. Aw, sweet Little Helen. I also choked up a little when I read what she said. I just never think of things like that.
    I love the collection you have for her. I'm sure it means a lot to her.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  4. What a beautiful post Helen! My cousin is also married to a brown man. One day we were at a marina on vacation. Karen had her very brown daughter on her hip - Kimberly couldn't have been more than 14 months old.

    A woman came up to us, looked at Karen and said "it's so nice of you to adopt that baby." Karen and I just looked at each other and she said "she is my natural daughter." The woman looked so perplexed like how is that even possible?!

  5. L.O.V.E.D this post. As you have seen on my blog I have 2 beautiful brown Gkids. One day when I was at the school with my Gson I noticed that everytime a kid questioned if I was really his Gma cause I am whilte and he isn't he would hold up his hand, show them his palm, and just say Yep, she's my GeGe.

    That touchs my heart every time I tell that story. Everyone's palm is basically the same color. I don't even know if he knew what he was doing. If he even realized the symbolism behind his palm.

    Love all your ornaments of color! Thanks for your comments lately. I have appreciated them

  6. My sister in law is indonesian and my brothers girlfriend is brown ( and I hope it's his soon to be wife, he isn't going to find a better lady) and this was beautiful. It's a good reminder to keep our 'other perspective' glasses on. My nephew caelan will be brown and I will remember that he is viewing the world through a unique perspective (especially where he lives) beautiful story. Thanks.

  7. Wow. I came over from Allan's blog and now that I'm here, I'm not leaving. A lovely post. And what an gorgeous family.

  8. Such a lovely post. I'm all teary and covered in goosebumps! :)

  9. Allan sent me over here, too. This story is beyond awesome. That comment about that Santa must be the REAL one made me smile from ear to ear. :)

  10. Beautiful, tender story that shows us that love comes in all colors. I thought of our grand-niece, who is bi-racial and how her parents make sure she feels a part of both cultures and fits into both families. You have a beautiful family. It is obvious that you have made very special memories together as a family.

  11. What a terrific story!!! Made me well up with tears. Thanks so much for sharing. So true that when we are made aware we try harder for positive changes.

  12. I think you succeeded very well, you're a great Mom!

    This was a great story to read, thank you Helen!

  13. What a great story! Thanks for sharing. Goosebumps!! I'll be back to visit again (I am here via Allan's page, too!).

    Happy Holidays!

  14. In my eyes and in Gods, we're all just different shades of brown.

  15. Red, yellow, blue, doesn't matter, has never mattered to me. God made us all. Thank you for sharing such a great story.
    Allan sent me and I am so glad he did. Take care and God BLess!!

  16. Wow, I have goosebumps everywhere after reading your story! I've never seen a line between different cultures and it's ashame there ever was one in some people's eyes. What a great way to work toward unity, such a good Mom!

  17. I love this post!

    My family...and my extended family (including friends) all shades and sometimes it pains me that we identify by "color." But then I think, why not? Our skin is so obvious and so why not celebrate in technicolor? :-)

    By the way, who is Allen?

  18. A menorah? a menorah? What a progressive town.
    This week my Little Helen, I mean Little Laurie said "I hate being Jewish" I almost cried, but held it together and asked why. She said "because all everyone talks about in December is Christmas. No one asks me what I do for Chanukah" It is hard for my kids, I grew up in a VERY Jewish area, but my kids are one of 1 or 2 Jewish kids in their classes. I hope I can do for my kids what you did for your Little H, she seems to have grown up into such a wonderful young woman.

  19. This was the SWEETEST post. How much love you have for your family to do those things which makes everyone feel included. I've just learned something new about you: you're a fantastic mom.

  20. I love when you share. I love your thoughts. I love when you write your heart!

  21. Oh thank you for sharing this Helen. I started to cry at Little Helen's statement about Santa. Love that you were able to find so many ornaments of color, because it seems to me that just recently have I seen more popping up.

  22. LOVE THIS and you can take LAURIES comment and post as mine too.
    this is the first year my daughter 'hates' not celebrating christmas.

    and I cant fault her

    I felt the exact same way as she does starting around now and for years to come.

  23. Ah, this was fantastic to read! Love you Helen and the great Mom and person that you are!

  24. Oh my gosh, you are the best mom. And every time Little Helen sees all the decorations you have found for her over the years, I bet she is reminded of that. (Not that she needs many reminders!)