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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Please Don't Stare:

D.J., Jordon, Shelby and Sami Jo

I have been thinking about this post since we were in Bend a couple of weekends ago for the Bend Summer Festival.  Cary and I were people watching, sitting up a few feet from the sidewalk on the patio at the Wall Street Bar and Grill.   Sitting on that patio was where I got my idea for this blog post about inter-racial families.  In Bend that day, there were many of them walking by us.

Back in the late 1990's, I had a home daycare in the McKenzie Valley.  It was called, get ready: Comfort and Joy Childcare.  I have always loved the phrase comfort and joy, and use it whenever I can.  It is me; mine.  I strive to bring comfort and to bring joy whenever and wherever I can.

One day I received a call from a grandmother looking for daycare for her kindergartner granddaughter.  She told me that her granddaughter was the only brown girl in the whole school.  Brown, because her mom is white and her dad is black.  Our little rural community was not very diverse.  

That is how Shelby came into our lives.  Smart, spunky, funny, cute, and sometimes a little bratty, she soon became one of our very favorite kids.  Nigel was a couple of years older than Shelby, but they became good friends.  She stayed overnight sometimes, came to his birthday party (the only girl invited) and spent a lot of time over at our house whether the daycare was open or not.  I soon forgot that she was brown, she was just our Shelby and we loved her.

Sometimes, it would just be Shelby and me.  I remember one time we were in the car in downtown Springfield, just leaving the discount canned foods store and sitting at the light on Main Street.  This old man was just glaring at me.  I couldn't figure out why.  My driving was fine, I was parked at the light and minding my own business.  Then it dawned on me that he was minding my own business!  He did not like it that I had a little brown girl in the car beside me.  Wow.  That is when I began thinking about what it must be like for families made up of different colors.  To be judged just for being there, period.

Another time, my husband at the time and I took Sami Jo and Shelby out for lunch at the restaurant by the community store.  We walked in and looked around for a place to sit.  It got dead silent and everybody just looked at us.  I looked down, wondering if my jeans were unzipped or something.  I couldn't figure it out ... but I was feeling very self-conscious.   I realized later that it was probably because we had Shelby with us.  Then, to everybody's surprise, Shelby spotted her grandpa eating lunch with his friends and ran over to him, saying, "Papa, Papa!".  He gave her a big hug, and people really couldn't figure out what was going on then.  Then we sat down at a table, and everybody turned their attention back to other things.  I was just glad that they quit looking at me.

This was not that long ago, folks.  Was it so unusual, even 12 years ago, to have families consisting of mixed races?  Apparently in the McKenzie Valley of Oregon it was.  I'm hoping that things are different now.  If they are not, here is a reminder for people who are bugged by things like that:  please don't stare.  It is definitely not polite, and it really isn't any of your business.

Thanks much.



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