She has my hands. Long, slender fingers that will turn upwards when held palm down. She has my skin, translucent, pale, with just a hint of pink. Her hair feels like mine, baby fine and wispy. She laughs like I do, with her whole self. She laughs at the same things too. When she can’t do something, her cheeks flush and she stomps her foot and I can feel the rage bubbling up inside, percolating at the surface, threatening to boil over. I can feel it because it bubbles in me too. We’re both quick to smile, and even quicker to strike. We are almost identical on the inside, she and I.
But her face is not my face.
Her face is his. The full lips, strong jawline, sharp, defined cheekbones. The little button nose, and the eyes, almond shaped pools of soulful brown. Her face is striking and unique and the most exquisitely beautiful thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. I can stare at her for hours, and discover new parts of it that I hadn’t noticed before. And I do. I’ve memorized every inch of it, and I stare at it in my minds eye, at night, in the quiet of the dark.
The world notices too. The world sees her, and the world says she is beautiful. Exotic, is the word it uses. The world doesn’t see her and think, “beauty”. The world sees her and thinks, “different”. When it is just she and I, that’s when the differences are marked. When the world notices the most. Are you the nanny? Is she yours? Where was she adopted from? Just words, innocuous and curious and benign and like knives, every time. My green eyes and her almond eyes don’t match, so she can’t be mine. They don’t see her insides. They don’t see how our laugh is the same, or how our rage bubbles just under the surface in the face of failure. They can’t know that it is my blood that pumps through her heart, my blood that sustained her then and now and will always. All the world sees in her face, and her face is not my face.
At this age, this clumsy, toddling, babbling age of wonder and curiosity and innocence, her face is just one part of her. Babies are adorable, and she is a (quickly growing, almost not) baby in their eyes. But soon, I fear, her face will cease to be just one part of her. Soon, the world may see it as the only part of her. The part of her that stands out, not because of its beauty, but because it’s different. And sometimes, sadly, the world doesn’t like different.
I’ve spent the last 18 months preparing for scenarios we might encounter in the coming years. I know what I will say to her the first time she loses. I know how to comfort her the first time a friend hurts her on purpose. I’ve practiced what to say when something is out of her reach, and how to coach her to reach it. I’ve stored words away, in letters and journals and in my mind, to use for her first betrayal, her first success, her first fight and win. I’ve cried tears remembering these moments in my own life, and I’ve written down those feelings. I know what ice cream we will eat to soothe her first broken heart (and subsequently, the place husband will have to take me to keep me away from the one who broke it). But there is one thing I don’t know how to deal with, or even how to prepare for. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve experienced loss, both superficially temporary and soul crushingly permanent and irreversible. But I have never been treated differently because of how I look. Because of who I am. I have never had ugly words used against me, had my heritage and appearance used as a weapon to hurt me.
I’ve never had to hold back tears against the sting of hateful whispers.
He has. And my fear is that she will too. And instead of helping her, instead of teaching her how to deal with and stand up to it, all I can see is white, hot rage. And I hate them, the world that will one day make her feel not beautiful. I hate the ones who will make her hate her eyes, those breathtaking almond pools of soulful brown. I hate them for hurting her. I hate that world for ever making anyone feel different, for making even one person look in the mirror and feel anything but acceptance and love for their face or skin or body. I never thought beyond the surface of it, because up until I met him, I was, by nature, on the other side of the mirror. Never hating, but so far from understanding.
I still don’t fully understand, and I may never understand, what it feels like on that side of the mirror. If I could, I would spend my life changing the wiring of every single person in this world who could one day hurt my baby. I would never change her, because she is perfect. I will never wish for her face to be different, because it is HER face. It is beautiful and exotic and perfect. I wish for everyone else to be different, for her face to never be anything more than a PART of her, not all of her. There is something coming, that I am not prepared for, but I am ready. I don’t know how long I have to find the words, but I am looking, looking, looking everyday for them. I may not understand how the world thinks, but I know how she thinks.
Because inside, we are the same. It is my blood that pumps through her veins. It is my rage that boils just under her surface. Her face may not be my face, but her heart is my heart. And my heart is strong. And it gets stronger everyday. For her.