At first, I was going to write that not much happened, but looking back on it - and I'm sure some of you can relate - it was filled with so much, but I have so many days like that it feels...normal. I'm tired, but no biggie.
Today was picture day at school. I learned this great term from my friend, Alison. It's called "the politics of respectability." I think about that a lot. I think that, in a way, my mother dealt with something very similar, as do many other people, even if for very different reasons.
I spent my formative years in an area that lacked diversity. In other words, I can remember all of the black students in my neighborhood because we were all there were.
There were the two brothers that lived two blocks up and on the right. There were Bryant S. and his little sister.
My point is that we stood out. And because of this, my mother was very conscious of how my brother and I looked and behaved.
When I was a little girl, I was invited by our next-door neighbor to go skating. After we had returned home, my mother made sure that I took the three dollars that Bonnie's mother had spent on me back to her immediately.
That was the day I learned the word "freeloader." My mother said that no one would ever be able to say that about us.
I don't recall the little girl on the other side of us, Heather, having that same conversation with her father. It was just a moment where a neighbor did something nice for another neighbor's child.
I distinctly remember my second grade picture day. My mother put my long, thick hair into two ponytails, one on each side of my head. I was wearing a two-piece striped outfit. I want to say it was purple. There was a skirt on the bottom, but you couldn't see it in the picture. I gave my best crooked-tooth-filled smile.
After a while, the pictures came back. I opened up my packet and was pleased with what I saw. I thought they were nice. When I got home, though, I remember my mother being upset that one of the barrettes on the end of my braids was not faced forward. She asked me why I hadn't fixed it.
This moment, along with others, including even other picture days at school, culminated in an idea being formed in my head that I was representing my entire race at all times. There was a level of pressure that my peers just didn't experience. They were allowed to be children and do what children do, while I had to be careful… always.
The reason I think back on things like this is because I fear the pressure that I put on my own daughter. Not only does she have the similar circumstance of being the lone black girl, but she's also the lone black girl with Down syndrome. The fact that I have exactly ZERO experience with the latter makes it that much more difficult for me to relax.
Today, I went out of my way to try not to make too big of a deal about picture day.
I didn't say anything to her, but, still, I woke up a bit earlier and put a little more attention into doing her hair. I changed out the shirt that she had on it first. I ironed her dress (after calling BD to find out where we keep the iron) even though I had no plans to purchase the photos.
In my mind, I wanted her to look nice because I knew that the other children at school might look just a little bit nicer today.
At the last minute, I did cave and wrote a check for the most inexpensive package. I'm sentimental and I would like to have something that reminds me of how she was at every stage.
But I won't get upset if she doesn't smile just so or if some hair is out of place or if that dress that I so meticulously ironed is full of wrinkles.
At least not out loud.