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Who Am I? It's Complicated and Controversial

by Misty Rae 10 months ago in Childhood
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Introducing M. Rae

Me, just hanging out

How do I condense 50 years into a few paragraphs? It's complicated. Oh, sorry, you want to know more than that? Okay, well, I suppose the best place to start is at the beginning.

My mother used to tell me that I was "one of those people" that had to do everything the hard way. I suppose I was. It did seem that wherever I went, difficulty and controversy followed. Or maybe I brought it along with me. But don't blame me, I was born in controversy.

When I say "born in controversy," I mean it in the literal sense. In July of 1971, all 6 1/2 pounds of me came into the world, the daughter of a beautiful white woman and her handsome Black love. In 2021, this doesn't sound like such a big deal, but in small town, eastern Canada, 50 years ago it was unheard of - controversy #1.

Controversy #2: my mother was technically still married to her husband, although they hadn't lived together for years and had both moved on with their lives. Again, big deal, right? Well, again, yeah, it kinda was for the folks of a tiny town with almost as many churches as people.

Controversy # 3 three weeks after I was born, my mother died unexpectedly. To this day, I'm not sure how, but fear not, the rumour mill certainly did it's best to fill in the blanks. I've heard theories ranging from cancer to a surgical complication to appendicitis. But that's really a side issue. She was 26.

My late mother.

The talk of the town became what would happen to the baby, i.e. me. In fact, there are still places in that small town where the name, "The Baby" can be heard whispered in hushed tones. This has been especially true the handful of times I've been spotted there. Residents that are old enough to remember the events of that fateful summer stare at me, in a mix or horror, confusion and compassion because they recognize me. I bear a strong resemblance to my late mother, or so I've been told. In fact, one time, when I was 17, I went to that town to bring my maternal grandmother a graduation picture. She was really the only link I had with my biological mother, and I visited her from time to time over the years. Anyway, two women saw me walk in and began wailing, screaming and following me down the hall of the nursing home. They kept saying I was the ghost of their sister, my late mother. Yeah, that's my life.

All that fuss over this little girl?

Eventually, I was adopted by my paternal uncle and his wife. The were Black, and I, aside from my thick, unruly, frizzy hair, appeared white, very, very white. This would be controversy #4. Again, you have to put yourself back into a 1970's mindset. Interracial adoption wasn't nearly as common as it is now, so people couldn't figure out what these Black people were doing with this white baby. Visitors, particularly military officers, would come over, and they'd just stare, first at me, then my parents. I remember this distinctly throughout my childhood and even at my father's funeral in 1994.

My mother, to her credit always responded in what I think is the coolest way ever! She just sat there, letting them stew in their uncomfortable juices. When she felt they'd had enough of the awkward silence, she'd smile ever so sweetly and say, "oh, I'm sorry, let me introduce our adopted daughter."

I also distinctly remember being in K Mart once, when I was about 4. Younger readers may not recognize the name, but K Mart was a very popular department store in Canada and the U.S. I was shopping with my father and a couple, they were older, approached me. The wife took my arm and started pulling me. I screamed and my father snatched me back. It turns out they had wanted to take me to customer service because they were certain I'd been kidnapped.

Controversy #4: a strong will and a big mouth. Growing up, I was always in conflict with authority. I wasn't a bad kid. I was a very curious child, I questioned everything and challenged norms. Apparently, I didn't get the memo that children were to be seen and not heard. I fought continually with my mother, demanding answers to questions she wasn't prepared to deal with. I fought often with teachers too. If they failed to give me the grade I deserved, usually due to a simple error in counting, I was right there, at the desk, demanding a full and accurate accounting for the record.

I was also very big on what I perceived to be my rights. I'm not sure where I got this idea of rights, but I asserted them any time I felt they were being infringed. For example, a teacher once demanded we pass in our notebooks for marking. I was in grade 7 and apparently that was a thing back then. The teachers were interested in knowing if we could take notes, I guess. Well, I was always a very good student, so I felt my notetaking ability couldn't be questioned. Oh, and did I mention that my notebook was a mess? Yeah, it was. I said I was smart, I didn't say I was neat. It contained notes, but it also contained scribbled and hearts and initials chronicling the various crushes I have over the term. So, I refused to pass it in, citing privacy concerns. To my parents' credit, they backed me up and I was never asked for a notebook again.

Another example, I, along with a friend of mine, led a protest in our high school in the spring of 1989 to demand the right to wear shorts. Boys were allowed to wear them, but girls weren't. We got a group of about 40 girls together and we all wore shorts and dared the administration to suspend us. They didn't.

Everyone said I should become a lawyer, and I agreed. I was fascinated by law shows. I never missed Matlock or L.A. Law. The idea of arguing for a living, wearing super cute suits, and well, let's be honest, a young Harry Hamlin, yeah, law sounded good. Long story short, didn't like it much. That brings us to controversy # 5, why on Earth would I ever leave such a good job? People thought I'd lost my mind. The truth was, I had found it. It didn't make me happy. I was exhausted, overworked and miserable.

Other than causing trouble, I have done other things. I was a gymnast and track and field athlete in my youth, I'm a writer (obviously), and always have been. And I'm a mother. I have 3 wonderful boys, now grown men, aged 31, 28 and 26. They are the best things I've ever done and my proudest achievement as I raised them mostly on my own. They're all brilliant, handsome and happy. The oldest, a former pharmaceutical chemist, is now following his dream and finding success as a rapper and music producer. The middle one inherited my love of learning and the written word. And the youngest is bright, hardworking and about the most compassionate person I've ever known. And I'm proud to say, they're all like me, they question everything and they stand up for what they believe in, regardless of opposition.

My boys. It's an old pic, but it's my favourite

Now, there's not so much controversy or complication in my life. I do what I want and don't hold myself to the expectations of others. I'm happily married to my high school sweetheart and we're as crazy, kooky and offbeat as we want to be. I spend my days assisting community action and advocacy groups, writing, cooking and hanging out in nature. I'm living the second half of my life on my terms and so far, it's working out just fine.

Hubby and I at his art studio last Halloween, acting silly because that's what we do.


About the author

Misty Rae

Retired legal eagle, nature love, wife, mother of boys and cats, chef, and trying to learn to play the guitar. I play with paint and words. Living my "middle years" like a teenager and loving every second of it!

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