Eva will remember more.  When she was eight, I took her to my office at school, then to nearby Frog Pond on Boston Common to skate.  I didn’t have enough money to rent two pairs of skates, so I only rented hers.  I made sure she was bundled up and mittened.  I stood outside the rink’s barrier and held her hand, then jogged along as she wobbled forward and the crowd of skaters whizzed past.  My face in the audience as she sang and danced in the supporting cast for a childrens’ theater production.  My straining to listen as she chanted lyrics about justice with Ruth at a hip hop festival and the amplified beat drowned out their words.  My coaching her to swim seriously at Walden Pond.  Her performing “it’s the bare necessities” from Disney’s Jungle Book for my birthday (I loved puns).  I helped her to balance on her first two-wheeler.  We watched difficult movies together, such as To Kill A Mockingbird.  I tried to warn her about materialism when one of her new friends bribed her with expensive gifts, then showed off her own new bike, sneering at Eva’s yard-sale one.

Eva’s childhood mania had been for dolls, for dressing them up, for diapering them, for taking them out in a stroller and pushing them in swings.  Her play had been little mother play.  She looked forward to having a sister, and when Maya arrived, became her parents’ helper in caring for her.

“Grandee, why don’t you like Poppa Khari?” she asked me once. 

“I don’t dislike him,” I said, thinking he must have told her this.  “I don’t like his forgetting you.  I don’t like his breaking promises.” 

Eva is a dreamer, confident of the world before her.  She thrives at school.  She takes her parents’ hip hop mission in stride.  At 12, she is adventurous, going on 21.  Given her singing voice, she would be a star.  Or she would dance.  She would paint.  She would write.  In sports, she would be a champion, a swimmer, a basketball star, a runner.  She would get all A’s and go to Harvard.  She would be a detective, like Nancy Drew; a lawyer, like Uncle Ray.  

She identifies herself as African American.  Her sister is Latino.  Her friends are mostly children of color.  In Colombia, and in Ruth’s and Diego’s eyes, as in ours, the world is wholesomely diverse.  This holds meaning for David, whom we adopted as an infant from Korea, and who says he has always been the target of racism.  He celebrates and loves Eva and Maya, and looks at Ruth’s married life with admiration.  He survives in Manhattan with temporary jobs.  He had one serious relationship, but then broke up.  We support him and his dream as well as we can.  Will I know David’s children, I wonder; or if I don’t, what will he tell them about me?




DeWitt Henry

DeWitt Henry’s books include The Marriage of Anna Maye Potts (winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel); a trilogy in memoir concluding with Endings and Beginnings: Family Essays (MadHat Press, 2021); and a collection of notes and essays Sweet Majoram (MadHat  Press, 2018).  Poems have appeared in Ibbetson Street, On the Seawall, Plume, and others.  He was the founding editor of Ploughshares and is Professor Emeritus at Emerson College. Details at DeWitt recommends contributing to Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, September 12, 2021 - 22:20