A Party of Diversity
by Jan Baughman

She was troubled from birth - born in a struggling pocket of immigrants; Tongans, Iranians, Turks, Hispanics, all nestled in the midst of the upper-middle class community of the Stanford University. It was a difficult beginning, brought into a family of five in a two-room apartment. Immediately, she and her sister were at war, though they were almost identical in looks, they shared nothing but the fight for survival. She was forced out, too young to be on her own. She quickly found refuge in the apartment of new tenants -- French and American, who offered her delicacies she had never known: Pate, salmon, tuna, brie, and above all, acceptance and love. Slowly, she left behind the fighting and rejection and made for herself, a true home.

But in spite of her new and supportive environment, she was still influenced by her roots, and before long, she found herself pregnant. A child herself, she now was carrying children of her own. And because of her misfortune, she was christened with the name "Bijou", named after a prostitute in a book by Anais Nin. This name would brand her for life. Still, she was well-loved, for she herself had much to give. There was much affection and good food, her pregnancy was accepted and she was well cared for as she struggled with both adolescence and maternity. It didn't matter who the father was; no one knew, anyway.

Finally, the day of labor came. The Elder Male, not married to the Elder Female, assisted her in childbirth. Of course, she was too young and inexperienced to benefit from any knowledge of the past, let alone instinct. The first to enter the world was still-born. The second came, a son, and she needed help to cut the cord and break the protective sac to stimulate life. The third, a daughter, came readily. Soon this adolescent found the strength to meet the demands of motherhood. Though she clearly had no idea what she was getting into...

One month, two months passed and the young family struggled to find their way. One day, the son who was believed to be of Italian decent and thus named "Luigi", struck his mother unexpectedly after having been frightened by a violent knock at the door. The cycle of violence was to be repeated. She replied with a blow to the eye, puncturing his cornea and reducing him to a poor, frightened infant with tears streaming down his face and weak cries spilling from his tiny mouth. The Elder Female took him frantically to the clinic. She set watch day in and day out for four days, feeding him medicine with an eyedropper to the mouth and the eye, in the hope of saving his vision. The medical bills mounted and he fared well, with only partial loss of sight. After this fight, and after this bonding, it was clear that he would stay. His sister, though, was soon given up for adoption.

They lived together in the modest apartment, mother and son, with difficulty. When things became too intimate, they were taken off for a little operation to prevent them from perpetuating their past. They often fought, without understanding the changes that had been inflicted upon them. But still, they lived well. They did not complain, and they even seemed to enjoy themselves and each other, from time to time.

A couple of years passed and they finally fulfilled the American Dream: they bought a small house with a very big yard. Suddenly, apartment dwelling was far behind and they were faced with country life; hunting, gathering, wandering. And then, another moved in, another who had left behind a bad home. But this one was unlike any they had known. They called her "Blackie". She was dark and sleek and self-assured, who craved and gained attention in the same breath, effortlessly, skillfully. She was now the chosen one by the Elders in this multi-cultural brood, but rejected readily by her peers.

Weeks and months ticked by, the seasons changed and were crossed off the calendar like completed tasks. Bijou and Luigi cautiously attempted to maintain their stature. And Blackie thrived, with grace and ease. She did not judge the past, but rejoiced in the present. She welcomed the diversity and silently fought back any animosity. She brought a playful quality and a quiet intelligence to life. With quiet perseverance she gained the respect of the Elders, the French and the Italian. She continued her campaign, without need for domination or fear tactics, no special interest nor pork-barrel lobbying. She remained true to her convictions, and eventually, with a simple majority, she was elected their leader.

Published November 15, 1996
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