I rest my cheek against his warm head and breathe in the scent of boy. Strawberry jam, sweat and mango juice currently. He jabbers incessantly as he grips me about things I can't understand, words that aren't quite ready to be formed, whole in his mind but jumbled in his mouth. He is all boy. Joy and wonder pour forth at the sight of cars and cows, one of his few words, “wow”, at monkeys and rain. He is full of desire for adventure and change, a child that brings me his shoes in the morning and doesn't take them off until he flops onto his pillow at night. He is constant motion, eyes wide with discovery.
Yet still he nestles and clings, his need for security still overruling his need to run. I squeeze his now two-year old body and remember the nights I nursed him, his eyes wide even then. He was only a handful of a baby, weightless and solemn. Never very hungry, never very active, just alive, and for that much we were grateful. I fed him as my own from day one and he took it as his due, never hesitating to latch on to this strange white woman, mother or not. His was a bond born of necessity, mine of choice. I wanted to know what it was to love a child who was not my own, as my own.
We look in the mirror together now, his little hands mashing his brown face against my pale one, and make faces. His squeals of delight hurt my ears, and I wonder again when he will realize that we are not one, he and I. Too many others see it, and I feel like a broken record telling them, “A mother is the one who loves and raises a child, not only the one who birthed him.” But color is too obvious and immediate a barrier to their untrained eyes. They see only skin deep and that is not deep enough.
Our reflected images are beautiful to me, mother and son, black and white. I live in constant amazement at the wonder of it, of us. A bond born of necessity and choice has become fixed, unbreakable, whole. A child who was not my own has become my own, my son.