I’m White. He’s Not.

The summer sunshine reminds me of a time, long ago when the shade of our skin was one of a few times color defined Rudy and I.

We made plans to spend the day at Huntington Beach in southern CA. We gathered a few what we thought of as necessary items to enjoy the day: a radio, towels, an ice chest full of snacks and drinks, magazines, and baby oil.

Baby oil?! Seriously, baby oil?!

Well, I’m telling you, at the time it made perfect sense. A quick way to color the skin.

A BIG MISTAKE, to say the least.

For me, anyway.

You see, Rudy has lovely brown skin. I am glow-stick white.

There we were, slathering that oil on, all over our exposed skin. Both of us looking nice and shiny. Feeling satisfied, we horizontally positioned ourselves, side-by-side, each on our own colorful towel, relaxing, to the point of snoozing under that hot sun.

Rudy noticed I was turning pink, said as much, but let the issue go when I said, “Oh, it’s okay. I’m fine. I’m getting a tan!”

As mid-afternoon approached, in the heat of the blazing sun shining brightly in my eyes, it was hard to tell if I managed more than a slight coloring. I felt I should continue to sunbath, just a bit more sun, a bit more color but, it was time to leave. So we did. Plus, we were hot, and tired.

We stopped at a mini-mart on our way home. A cold ICEE, Cocoa-Cola flavor, please! was in order. As I stepped out of the car, my skin – especially behind my knees – hurt. Not too bad. Just a slight irritation.

My reflection spoke to me from the glass of the store window. “Oh, wow, you did get some color. Definitely!”

I looked towards Rudy and noted that he had tanned nicely. He looked all chocolatey-brown, not milk-chocolate but rather dark-chocolate, like Hershey’s Special Dark. He was looking good, real good!

Cold drink in hand, I eased myself back into the car. I could feel the sun soaking in, doing its job of coloring me.

Ah, what a soon-to-be joke!

When we returned home I asked Rudy if he wanted to go to the pool, to cool off before we headed to our little abode, our own personal space. “Sounds good to me!” he said with interest.

The pool was somewhat crowded with other residents living in the apartment complex. The water felt good, soothing. It seemed people didn’t want to look our way, but they did. “Hum, am I looking good with some sun on my lilly-whites, or what?” I modestly questioned under my breath.

Or what? was the answer to my ridiculous thought!

30, maybe forty, minutes later, when we entered our place I immediately walked to the bathroom to shower off the day’s debris. “Oh. My. Gosh!” I sort-of yelled as I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. “I am so red! My face looks like a cherry tomato!”

“You are red. Really red.” Mr. Good-Looking-Dark-Chocolate-Brown casually stated. “Seriously red.”

I’m Red. He’s Not.

profile profile

brad

A
profile
x-ray
of
Brad’s
teeth
also
captured
a
portion
of
his
skull
and
spinal
column.
*
Very
interesting,
and
rather
funny,
is
that
his
skin
covered
profile
pokes
out
from
behind
all
that
bone.

Dad Among Dads

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I quietly snuck down the vacant halls of the building, creeping along, listening attentively, trying to hear my dad’s voice behind one of the many heavy doors, where he taught the science of politics. Even as a small child, I was around 7 years old, I very aware that that was a place not to scream (ever!) and to keep giggling to a quieter that quiet whisper.  I knew that Mr. Political Science Professor was behind one of those doors, teaching young impressionable minds, and that they all deserved the respect of a non-disruptive environment. I understood my boundaries within the confines of his workspace.

As I tiptoed along I discovered the door to his classroom was ajar. So, I peeked in. Ever so slightly. So curious about what exactly he did.  I didn’t quite know what his job entailed. What it meant to be a teacher. My dark blond hair fell onto my face as I lowered my head when he glanced at me. But then, I quickly looked back up at him and found a smile on his face. Casually, he turned his attention back to his students, as he continued to lecture.

I felt my dad’s power in that moment. His ability to drawn people in, to mesmerize an audience with the knowledge he shared, by his sheer presence, his demeanor, and his top-of-the-line enthusiasm. I quickly glanced at the rows of students watching him. They were enthralled. Focused. Entertained. So much so, that they did not even notice me gazing at them because, obviously, my dad was the only thing that mattered at that moment. He was their professor. Someone building their knowledge base, adding another step toward their future.

To me, though, he was simply my dad. A person I adored, deep within my heart. The person who took me for rides in his convertible, our hair blowing every which way. My dad was the person who sat at home, quietly reading various books and completing crossword puzzles while gently scratching a kitten’s tailbone.

My dad, Professor John B. Palmer, was, and always will be, thought of lovingly. Fully. As both an intellectual, someone I admire, and simply as the calm, serene person who made an impact on my life.