Clippings .. Real Mother and Racism

By Pamela Chatterton Purdy, author of "Beyond the Babylift"

Baby book clippings spark a touching conversation on racism and adoption between mother and her son, adopted during Vietnam Operation Babylift.

"Mom, why did you save all these clippings?" Stephen was leafing through his baby book.

"Clippings?... Those clippings are about you.. Don't you know how special you are?"

"Yea. But these clippings, now that I can read... It's so hard... reading about myself."

"What part is hard, honey?"

"Like this - 'Orphan Finds Good Home... Hoang is a good-looking male child of five'... I can hardly remember my first mother."

Stephen picked at a corner of the book and a few tears rolled down his face. My eyes felt moist.

"I'm so sorry this upsets you.. And I'm sorry you can hardly remember your first mother."

His lower lip quivered. He went on, "How can I love you so much when you're not my real mother?"

My own tears welled up; I kissed his forehead and stoked his hair. I was deeply touched and waited a moment until my voice returned.

"That's both sad and wonderful.. I'm overwhelmed by what you say."

"Mom, if my real father was a black American soldier, and my real mother was Vietnamese, how could they get together, if they were fighting on different sides?"

"Do you know what a civil war is, honey? It's were when one part of a country fights another part. It was the South Vietnamese against the North Vietnamese. Your father was in Vietnam because the Untied States decided to take sides with the South. Your mother lived in South Vietnam, so your mother and father were on the same side. The North finally took over the South, and that's why your mother, along with other mothers of half-American children, decided you would be safer in his country. During the last year of the war, many of you were put into orphanages, hoping to get you to safety."

Stephen slid his pencil back and forth in his slipper sock, then lay on his back.

"Why do I have to look different? Why can't I look like everyone else?"

"Jessica and Kristen look different, and they're biological sisters. I have a twin, and she and I look different. Ronald is different."

"I know.. I know, it's just that it would be fun to have straight blond hair - you know, the way Billy's hair is. It hangs in his eyes an it's so cool the way he flips it back."

I lay on my back beside him, covering my eyes from the bright light. It really was secure and cozy here on the floor, every nook and cranny visible. Besides a clock, a tissue box, and a radio, Stephen had pictures of beautiful birds taped all over the walls. He had torn them from Ranger Rick magazines.

"You know, these pictures add a lot to your closet. What if all these birds looked alike? What then?"

"The world would be dull."

"Sure would. You know God made us all different, and the world is a more beautiful place because of it."

"Mom, I guess I am saying is that I hate being called Blackie and Cotton Picker at school. I wish I were white."

I propped myself up on one elbow. "Being called names has nothing to do with who you really are. Kids who call names have a problem; someone who has to put someone else down has a problem!"

I gathered him in my arms. It made me cry, too, that there was such cruelty at school.

"I love you, Mom.. How can that be when you are not my real mother?"

"Hey, I love you and you love me. What else do we need, to be a real mother and son?"

I glanced at the clock propped up on two cloth-covered bricks - 9:30. The big house with its many rooms was dark and quiet.

Excerpt from Beyond the Babylift, reprinted with permission of the author.