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What do you see when you see us? What do you see when you see someone? We make a narrative. Create a life. Fill in lines to a story we write, from our perspective, from our vantage point, clothing the person, the persons in our garments, to fit our own story of how life works.
Heard too many times in Rome: “Oh, is that your daughter? That your son? Are you one of those women who couldn’t get pregnant so you adopted and then you had a miracle pregnancy?”
How can I answer? How can I erase those words now etched across my daughter’s scalp, words that say you were a second choice. You were the runner-up.
The surprise answer is NO. Actually she was a first choice, a first decision. She was our miracle. I watch people stammer and their tongues lag because my story does not fit in the hole they wanted to put me in. My narrative is not their own.
Now back in Uganda my daughter has to hear, “Oh thank you for looking after her!” She watches as her mother is martyred. Like I am a savior. What I want to say, what I want to scream is, “I am just a mother who has failed a thousand times today. I am a mother who wakes up every day and starts anew and tries and tries again, and I get tired and frustrated and fail and win, and I am just a mother and she is just my child.” But I don’t need to tell my daughter this. She knows all too well how very human I am. But I still want to erase, protect, steel her from such assumptions.
We look through our own lenses. I am guilty of this as well. I wear my Americanism over my eyes like fog, but I like to think that on this bumper car experience of life, that each new culture I enter knocks away some of it, bangs a little out of me, so that maybe by the end of it–sooner if I am lucky–I will see people a little clearer, a little cleaner, and not assume anything, but discover everything.