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  • At the end of the first day of middle school my daughter rushed to my car before I could get out to greet her and said, “Don’t get out of the car, mom.”

    Every day that first week, the same thing. I figured it out pretty quickly. I had been expecting this, maybe for a long time. I asked her on the third day, “Is it because I’m white?”

    She nodded. We sort of grabbed each other and laughed. Our big, secret, silly joke. I told her, “The kids will find out sooner or later.”

    But I understood. She needed time. She’s Hispanic. I’m not. Her previous school had been more diverse, more familiar, including many colors and cultures and several mixed-race families, a jumble that reminded me of Noah’s Ark: two Asians, two Hispanics, two Indians, and so on. Her new school, a charter, is by far mostly African American, with kids from a wide variety of socioeconomic areas, rather than the immediate area. As with many middle school kids, they needed to dig, to investigate, to understand.

    The questions began immediately. “Why you talk white?” the kids asked her. She explained that not all Hispanics speak English with a Spanish accent.

    Meanwhile, every day at pick up I slouched a little into my car seat, staring at the clouds through the windshield. The things we do for love.

    A few days later my daughter sat at the kitchen table and said, “The kids have seen you. They keep asking me, ‘How your mom have you?’” This cracked us up, as if my daughter came out of my ear. “What should I tell them?” she asked.

    I told her, “The truth. Tell them you were adopted as a baby. Keep it simple.”

    The next day she did. I asked her how they reacted. She said they sort of cocked their heads, clearly pondering the meaning of the word “adopted” and said, “Huh.”

    We discussed how adoption – and giving up babies for adoption – is not really prevalent in African American culture. “Every culture is different,” I told her. I paused, and added, “Every family is different.”

    Adoption, in all its beauty and sorrow, opens the door to many questions. You have to find a way to fit your narrative into the world of preconceived ideas. It reminds me of a short story by Amy Bloom: Love Is Not a Pie. You can’t parcel it up into perfect, recognizable slices. Love surprises us in its capacity and variety.

    After our conversation, life moved on. For the rest of the school year, the kids burst through the doors every afternoon, a hub of red polo shirts and dark hair. My daughter buzzed in the middle. They hugged. They laughed. They fist bumped. They hugged again. Many days, I had to shout from the car window, to ply my daughter away: “Let’s go! Day’s a wasting!” Kids started waving to me. And one day a girl called out, “Hey, Claudia’s mom.”

    My slouching days were over.
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