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  • Kim Clay

Not The Best Start to Life

Update: I originally posted this article last year as a 'feel good' story to promote the Digital Kreation mission of encouraging people to preserve, organize and digitize their family media collections to share today & pass to future generations tomorrow. In light of current events, and because I find writing cathartic, I've updated my story to add my 'two-bits' to the dialogue. When Facebook blocked my site for 'not meeting' their Community Standards following a reader of my blog reporting 'violent content' !!! (I'm a sweet old grandmother trying to help people organize their family photos!!!) I removed the offending articles and tried to contact Facebook (I've had no response & still blocked!!).

I started with :

My entry into this world did not follow the norms of love & marriage followed by a stork delivery!

I spent the first three years of my life in a London orphanage in the late 1950's

.... BUT what a cutie!!!

AND please don't feel sorry for me because this is a feel good story with mostly a happy ending!!!

The most telling passage that I wrote:

History shows that was a very different time. The influx of people coming from the West Indies to England was in it's infancy, unwed mothers (let alone with a mixed race-child) were shunned by their communities and racial prejudice was wide-spread.

was this the offending language? .... I was called much worse names referring to being born out of wedlock & mixed race!!!

However even as a child I was most insulted when people thinking they were being nice to me, told me "I don't think of you as being black!!!"

I went on to explain:

There is a heartwarming love story......

My Dad was born & raised in Trinidad, but as a young man hitched a ride on a tanker to England in hopes of creating a better future for himself. I don't know any details BUT he got my English birth mother pregnant and she put me in the orphanage.

My Mum was also born & raised in Trinidad and traveled to the UK to study nursing. As she tells it, although they weren't friends, they knew of one another in Trinidad. They bumped into each other in a West Indian student centre in London and recognizing a familiar face, they simultaneously said to each other "what are you doing here!!"

The feel good part.... two young people from a small Caribbean island bumping into each other half-way across the globe, falling in love and having a long and happy marriage.

And the tear-jerker.... a wonderful women going above and beyond to find & adopt her husband's abandoned multi-racial child.....

Just your ordinary, everyday story of a happy family !!!!

Early Childhood Memories

Scientists have long been baffled by children being able to remember things that have happened to them before they are three when they are still little, but losing these memories by the time they're a bit older. Apparently, our earliest memories tend to be ones filled with emotion, either positive or negative.

I have two vivid memories from my time at the orphanage:

The Negative: As a toddler I was seeking attention from one of the carers who was attending to a baby. She pushed me away so hard that I fell and bashed my head on the foot of a bed, which were metal in those days.

The Positive: The adoption process took time and my Mum & Dad weren't allowed to take me home until all the legalities were completed. So they would come to visit and play with me in the orphanage playground. One time, some of my fellow "orphans" were out there too. Soon, they were all copying me and calling out "come push me Dad" or "look at me Mum".

How heartwarming and, at the same time, sad is that? In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm pretty sure that my response was to shout words to the affect "stop calling them Mum & Dad, they are MY PARENTS not yours!!!" Just your ordinary sibling rivalry?! (...and they were all white!!)

And the rest is History....?

I have certainly reaped the rewards of the beautiful core of my mum’s spirit that led to such an unselfish 'act of love'. IVF treatment wasn't available back then & she was unable to conceive her own biological child. So we may be God's gift to each other!!

My Dad also did his part!! Committed to providing a better life for his family, he worked a full-time job during the day and studied at night to become a Petrochemical Engineer, that led to postings across the globe (but that's another part of my life story) . At 6'4", he was a gentle giant, with an easygoing demeanor and I like to think that I inherited that from him!!!

Another relevant passage:

Education was a very important part of my upbringing and I did end up with a PhD in Chemistry from London University,  and also a husband!! Now writing this bringing back fresh memories. We had to endure many incidents of prejudice and one that really galled my Mum was a teacher who kept me in the lowest Math stream, for no other good reason. I was about eight and we were moving to Holland so I had to take a test, which I aced!!. The teacher tried to cover herself, claiming that she 'knew I could do it if I put my mind to it'. At my graduation I remember my Mum saying "I wish she could see you now"!!!

As an aside: to other parts of my life story that may be directly relevant to this discourse:

Another incident that really upset my Mum, was a family friend referring to me as her "adopted daughter". I was young enough not to know why this upset my Mum, but I still remember her visceral reaction. (Not racial but insensitive & judgemental nonetheless!!!).

Because my parents were travelling all over the world for my Dad's job, I went boarding school!! Despite being brought up in the Seventh-Day Adventist church, my Mum chose a Convent school hoping I would be shielded from prejudice. BUT ... it doesn't matter where you lock up a bunch of teenage girls in close proximity 24/7.....

I did also have to go through my young womanhood. BUT ... I guess sexual assault & trouble getting a first job... despite the same qualifications & going through the same channels as my "soon to be husband"... was more of a gender discrimination thing!!! #metoo

Back to the story

The Happy Ever After .... My hubby and I moved to the US 20 years ago, with our  two adorable young children, now wonderful and successful millennial's embarking on their own family lives.

Not quite.... I've deleted there is the little matter of a missing Heritage (I'll put it in another Blog!!!)

Instead, I wanted to expand on the lessons I learnt from my black parents, who bore the brunt of relentless & vitriolic 1960's racism. Never once did they retaliate, instead they suffered in silence and focused on educating themselves, making a difference and shielding me. Theirs was a true lifelong love story and they were the most loving and compassionate parents (just like parents all over the world!!!).

Since my marriage, or here in the US, I don't recall ever encountering any overt racism and wasn't aware and didn't expect my children to have either. As a teenage driver, my son was stopped several times (but his sister aced him in the speeding ticket department!!! )

I've never felt a need to warn or protect them from racial discrimination... although I will admit that I suggested that my daughter write about her diverse background in her University admissions essay!!! I am a pacifist and taught my kids tolerance & inclusiveness, My mantras were "it's not necessarily right or wrong... it's just different" and "if you you can't say something nice... please don't say anything!!! #bekind

I wasn't surprised when my daughter (and new mom) needed a chat because she was feeling confused & upset. She takes more after her Dad (in skin tone) and recognizing that she is in the educated, privileged and affluent category. She has never experienced any racism but while discussing recent events with her brother (who looks more like me in skin tone !!!), learned that he'd had a different experience to her!!! (which was also news to his clueless mother!!!)

My point is:

Just because you've never experienced racial prejudice, (or even if you have but it is now a distant memory), doesn't mean you cannot acknowledge and recognize that there are people still suffering (usually in silence), who deserve to have their voices heard!!

Going back to business.....

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