Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Salt and Pepper (07/24/14)
TITLE: Flavor Enhancers
By Donna Tijou
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“I don’t know, mom, just out,” snapped Al, as he stomped out the door.
Albert was moody lately, leaving Allyson longing for understanding, wishing she could find a hidden pool of wisdom from which to glean. Raising children could be perplexing, but in a biracial family the challenges were myriad. She and Dick thought they could handle the complexities of this type of blended family, but it was difficult to foresee everything. Allyson and her two sons, Alfred and Jarvis, were black, and Dick and his two daughters, Elisa and Krista, were white. As open and accepting as society seemed today, many people were still prejudiced. Eight years ago when they decided to join their families, the children were younger and the problems simpler. They hadn’t anticipated all the stressors they might run into raising them through the developmental stages leading to adulthood. Teenage angst was one thing, but in this type of family, it was more complicated.
Dick’s profession as a mechanical engineer paid well, as did Allyson’s nursing career. As Christian, family-oriented people, they felt that their dedication would be enough to meet the demands of raising a biracial family, but neither were prepared for what it would be like when all four kids reached adolescence concurrently. Alfred was now fifteen, Elisa, fourteen, and Jarvis and Krista, both thirteen. Allyson thought her family resembled a chess set and she, the queen everyone was trying to capture. She struggled to meet the demands of a working mother, a high-energy job and a large house. Recently, in a moment of exasperation, she confessed to her friend, Mavis,
“There are days when I wish I could clone myself so I could have one of me for each aspect of my life. This child-rearing gig is harder than I thought, especially with so much significance placed on color.”
What concerned Allison the most was Al’s escalating resentment. He loved Dick, who, in turn, loved him and was a devoted step-dad and father to all four children. At home, the color differences were nonexistent, but out in the world, they often met with opposition and bigotry.
At times, people were unkind and made crude remarks. It wasn’t too bad when, as a couple, Dick and Allyson went out in public, but when it was the whole family, people often stared and said stupid things. The previous night they had gone out to dinner at what was considered an “upscale” restaurant where one might expect to mingle with educated, unbiased patrons. Before they finished dining, the man sitting at the next table, sloppy from over-imbibing on red wine, leaned toward their table. Putting his hand to the side of his mouth, said in a stage whisper,
“Psst, pass the salt and pepper. Looks like y’all got plenty. I don’t know why you folks just don’t stick to your own kind.”
“How crass,” Allyson mumbled under her breath as the bile rose in her throat. Dick started to get up but sank back in his chair when Allson touched his elbow, knowing he was about to explode. She found it interesting though, observing the different reactions of the children. Al’s face grew red as he clenched his fists. Elisa’s mouth dropped open; Jarvis, lost in reverie, was oblivious, and Krista, in the innocence of youth, perhaps misunderstanding the slur, perhaps not, replied politely,
“Sir, you are mistaken. We are kind not only to our own, but to all. If you don’t have enough salt and pepper, we’d be pleased to share.”
Allyson loved it. She and Dick, smiles teasing the corners of their mouths, sat quietly, letting Krista’s remark hang in the air. No more needed to be said.
They all handled it well, except maybe Al. He was the most angry, letting it brew until he seemed ready to erupt. Allyson knows her son can be emotive and that racially insensitive remarks heat him up. She and Dick work with him and the rest of the crew, to help them through the difficulties of growing up and whatever discrimination they might face. They know that God loves each person, just as He made him or her, and do their best to model that behavior by their words and actions.
“Don’t let it bother you,” they teach them, “our differences are what make us unique. God gave us both, salt and pepper, as flavor enhancers. They compliment each other. They are the spice of life.”
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