The other morning Grace passionately apologized to her Olaf crayon when she broke his tip off. (G colors hard.)
GRACE: Olaf. I am sorry I broke you because I love you Olaf. (Whispers to her Olaf crayon) You are my favorite. More than those sisters and that reindeer.
ME: Why do you like Olaf so much?
GRACE: Because Olaf’s white. And because the one thing he wants ― to live in the sun and the summer ― he wants it so bad but what Olaf doesn’t know is his favorite wish will melt him into nothing.
Twenty minutes later, during our daily morning ritual/debate over moisturizing her hair, Grace wishes her skin and hair were like mine. After dropping her at school, while packing to fly across country to sign away my childhood home, I’m consumed by the ongoing worry that Grace’s wishes to be white will melt her self-love and self-acceptance into nothing.
As someone blessed with an intense resemblance to my mother, a resemblance so strong that sharing her first name felt like overkill, I wasted much life unable to recognize my resemblance and hiding my first name. The irony of having a daughter desperate to physically resemble me is pretty much a karma boomerang repeatedly hitting me in the face in a slow-mo GIF on auto-repeat.
I can’t wish Grace and I were the same color any more than I can wish my mother was still alive. I will always be as Grace calls me, “beige” and she will always be “brown,” but I hope and pray she learns far faster than I did, to love who she is and fully embrace what she looks like.
As me, my sister, her husband and three of their four daughters clear out the rest of our childhood home of 45 years, it’s tempting to relax into the comfort and safety of family resemblance. Like a visual game of Telephone our resemblances are generational smoothies ― Lucy’s curly long hair is a living echo of Mom’s thick, waist length mane of dark honey curls. Hannah and I share the same fine straight hair, Olivia has her father’s black Irish hair, Snow-White skin, quick blue eyes but my dad’s expressions, Molly has the leggy height of her paternal grandmother, but our mom is threaded in there ― in an eyebrow or cheekbone or eye shade or foot arch. It’s easy to find myself longing for that luxury in my nuclear unit of three.
Just in time, my husband sends me a photo of Grace holding up a note for me in my absence. Suddenly, any attachment I might have to resemblance breaks like the fragile tip of a white crayon.
Resemblance is surface and beyond our control. What is in my control is how much I can love and appreciate the later-in-life gift of my husband and child. My deep appreciation of these two people taking over the rest of my life is as strong a bond as sharing the same blood, plasma, guts and glory.
Happy Interdependence Day.
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