#mymothermademe… (OR DID SHE?)

DNA

No. Not Kendrick’s version of DNA… the actual DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes.

The carrier of genetic information.

I’m planning on having my DNA mapped, y’know that ancestry.com / 23andme type shit. I’ve always had questions, so now I want to get some answers. I know both my parents. That’s not a question. I know I’m Black. THAT IS NOT A QUESTION DAMMIT. But, both my parents are from the Caribbean and if you know anything about the transatlantic slave trade, you know that means the lines back to Africa aren’t as straight as they could be.

My first question would be more of an explanation. You see, I don’t LOOK like either parent. It’s said that I look JUST like my father, but yeah…no. People who know both of us don’t see it. My mother used to say it all the time, but I think that was just the angry divorcee talking.

I don’t look like my mother and since I was raised by her, the “oh! That’s your mom/daughter” surprise was – and IS – constant. For example, the day after the parent teacher conference my gym teacher said, “I didn’t know your father was White.”

Me: He isn’t.

Her: But…I…your mom? Are you sure?

Me: BITCH I’M SURE!

I didn’t SAY that, but my face did. Annoyed, I asked my mother’s permission to take one of the three photos of my father she had to school with me.

My mom: WHY?

Me: Stupid gym teacher met you and assumed my dad is White. I need to prove her dumb ass wrong.

My mom: (handing me the photo) don’t swear! Don’t lose the picture.

Brought the photo to school the next day and said, “HOW YA LIKE ME NOW?!?”

Okay I didn’t SAY that. I said, “THIS is my father.”

Or IS he?

There was a joke in my family that I easily could’ve been switched at birth and that my mother actually wondered that when she first held me. I was born via C-section, so there was a curtain, and my mom was drugged up a bit, and they just kinda said, “here she is (held up), and she’s healthy! BRB!”

Later, when she was in the recovery area with the other new moms, they brought me over. She took one look at me and (allegedly) said to the nurse, “are you SURE this is her?”

As her second child, my mother was expecting me to look similar to my sister. My sister was an adorable little light brown bundle (our father is #teamlightskint) with a tiny baby afro (“so much hair!”), and chubby cheeks. Me?

Growing up I heard the story. One day my mother heard me repeating it to a friend and stopped to correct me. You see, I thought I was told that when my mom first saw me, she thought I was Puerto Rican.

My mom (to me an my friend): I NEVER said that! I didn’t think you were Puerto Rican when you were born…

I thought you were PORTUGUESE.

Yup. My mother thought I was some random White baby and Portuguese because that was the first type of White person she thought of.

Puerto Rican would’ve made MORE sense because growing up in my neighbourhood, I was mistaken for Dominican or Colombian on a fairly regular basis. My friends’ parents would speak to me in Spanish when they met me, and then I would have to awkwardly explain that I wasn’t Latina.

“Oh. So your parents didn’t teach you Spanish?”

“No. I’m not Dominican.”

“Oh. Really?”

This happened to me as recently as ten years ago. By that point I had picked up a few words and phrases. We had taken a trip to the Dominican for a wedding. When we arrived at the resort, the man behind the desk said, Hola y bienvenido, ¿quieres una bebida?

Me: whaaaaaaaaa? Did we pick a resort with no English speaking staff?

(Please keep in mind that this was the third person to speak to me in Spanish.)

The same gentleman, turned to my friend and said – IN ENGLISH – “welcome to our resort. Would you care for a beverage? If I can get your name I can check you and your party in.”

Me: whaaaaaaaaaaa.

For the rest of the trip, I had to correct people in town, the staff at the resort, and even GUESTS at the resort. I even learned to say, “No soy dominicana, soy canadiense” (I’m not Dominican, I’m Canadian) because it happened so much.

One of the guys who worked near the beach looked me up and down, laughed and said, “you need to talk to you mom”.

YEARS later, I take my beloved mother out to lunch. Over our appetizers she says, I was talking to your aunt the other day, and we were talking about how Daddy (my Bajan grandfather) would reminisce about his childhood in Cuba—

I snatched the edamame my mother was causally putting into her mouth and said, “woman what are you talking about?”

My grandfather had passed away 15 years earlier. At the time, I was confused about two things: the name on the program was a completely different name than the one I knew him to have and, in his last days, he only spoke Spanish. Both were explained with a hand wave and the words, “don’t ask me now”.

If you have West Indian parents, then you know “don’t ask me now” means, “never speak of this again”. Which is how #SecretsOfTheWestIndies are created. This is how people find out about long lost siblings, uncles who are really brothers, second wives, first husbands…

…and why I want to get my DNA mapped. Questions need answers.

My friends have already started taking bets. If you want in on the pool, there is an assumption that I have Asian blood.

HAHAH NO*

 

 

 

*pending results.

 

 

 

 

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