“I suppose my family looks a little different to everyone else. We get a lot of stares when we are out in public together. Yes, I suppose we are ‘different’, but to me it’s completely normal. Let me start at the beginning.
Iowa. The heartland of the United States. My parents, Dale and Kay, were high school sweethearts that married shortly afterwards in 1969. They were free spirited and desired a large family. By 1970, a year after their wedding, my mom still had no baby in her arms to love. They turned to adoption at 19 and 21 years of age to begin their family, which was completely unheard of at the time.
Very quickly, they were able to adopt a beautiful six-week-old biracial baby boy.
Matt was the precious baby they had been waiting for. While my mom’s parents accepted their new grandson with open arms, my father’s parents took a little warming up to the whole biracial thing. In fact, his mom had to plead with her husband. ‘If you don’t stop this behavior and accept that beautiful baby into this family, you will lose your son and never see him again.’ It took a little while but he eventually did begin to love Matt as his grandson and not an outsider.
When my brother was only two years old, I was born. My big brother has brown curly hair, big brown eyes, and cocoa-colored skin. I have blonde hair, light skin, and blue eyes. We could not have looked anymore different from one another. But he has been my big brother since the moment I was born. I don’t know anything different.
By my first birthday, my parents were ready to expand the family again. They adopted another biracial baby, this time a little girl, only two weeks old. My little sister Chris and I are only 11 months apart! She, like my big brother, has curly brown hair and beautiful brown skin.
Everyone asked my parents, ‘If you know you can have your own kids, why would you adopt again? Look at that beautiful little blonde baby you made! Why would you adopt another biracial child?!’ My parents were appalled. Why did it matter to anyone how they grew their family? Who cares if a child has brown skin and hair or white skin and blonde hair? A baby was a baby, and they loved them all.
Skip ahead one more year. My brother is 4 years, I am 2 years, and my little sister is 15 months old. Why not add another baby to this family? My next sister, Sarah, was born with pale skin, blonde hair, and green eyes. There was four kids in the house, four years and under. Brown, blonde, brown, blonde…like little stair steps. People would stare in wonder at the four of us, never quite sure what was going on.
The summer I turned 8 years old, my parents’ marriage ended. My mom and the three girls (me, Chris, and Sarah) moved from Des Moines, the capital of Iowa and city to a quarter million residents, to the very small town of Davenport, Iowa. This small town is where I truly remember my first bad experience with racism. One day, my sisters and I were walking home from school when several boys rode their bikes up to us and started throwing rocks. ‘GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!’ It was very scary for a 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and kindergartener. We didn’t know who these boys were and why they were screaming at us in the street, much less throwing rocks.
When my sisters and I finally arrived home, we told our mom what had happened. When something like this happens to your children your mama-bear mode kicks in! She was furious and ran outside. She found the boys still around our home and began chasing them. My mom followed one of them, the ringleader of the group, to his house and spoke to this bully’s mother about what they had done to her daughters. She was one angry mama-bear! Needless to say, we moved out of that town at the end of the school year when things didn’t lighten up for us. My mom was not putting up with that kind of behavior towards her children.
Both of my parents eventually married other people, who each had a 2-year-old kids of their own. Add an instant little brother, Mikel, and little sister, Kelsey, to the family. Now, we are a family of 6 children. We had every kind of sibling you can imagine! Our family has biological siblings, adopted biracial siblings, step siblings, and, after my dad adopted my youngest step brother, we a half brother! Try explaining that sibling group to an outsider and, surely enough, their head will spin! However confusing our family may seem to everyone else, to us, we are simply brothers and sisters and nothing more complicated than that.
There are so many thoughtful caring people in the world that when you come across a very insensitive person it can really rattle you. We had an experience like that with a photographer at a Sears Photo Studio when my second younger sister, Sarah, was graduating from high school. Family photos with a family like ours can be tricky to say the least. The oldest four kids jokingly call ourselves the ‘original 4’. So, we usually we take the ‘original 4’ and put them in the photo and add and subtract parents and the youngest sibling that goes with the coordinating parents…crazy confusing to outsiders, but we get it.
The photographer on this particular day was very confused by the original 4 standing in front of her. She asked, ‘What IS this?!’ as if we were running some sort of circus. My mom got confrontational to say the least and angrily replied, ‘These are my children!’ My mom does not take kindly to people when they are confused by her children. Again, to us, this is just a family and we don’t see any difference between any of the children. You can easily forget that the world doesn’t see your family like you do. That kids are all the same no matter what they look like.
Now, all those kids, myself included, are grown up with families of our own and lots of grandkids to add to the family. Each generation gets more diverse. My older brother Matt’s wife is Caucasian, so their 2 daughters are ¼ African American and ¾ Caucasian, with olive skin and light brown hair. I’m married to a Caucasian man, so our son and twin daughters are Caucasian with light hair and eyes. My next sister, Chris, is married to an African American man, so their twin sons and daughter are ¾ black and ¼ Caucasian, with darker skin and eyes. Family photos just keep getting more beautiful and blended!
This younger generation is even more accepting of these differences than you can imagine.
One day, my sisters and I were sitting around our mother’s dining room table talking and a few of the grandkids were there with us. My mom was talking about adopting children (did I forget to mention my mom and her brother are both adopted as well?) This conversation was about my mom adopting kids. One of my twin daughters, about 8 years old at the time, looked at me and said in the most innocent voice possible, ‘Which one of your sisters is adopted mom?’ The adults looked around the table, smiling and chuckling in amazement. Around this table sat 3 blonde sisters, 1 biracial sister, and our blonde mother. I asked my daughter Emily, ‘Who do you think is adopted?’ Her response was, ‘I don’t know.’ My heart could have almost burst with love and pride. She didn’t see the as colors, but just family. Period.
Now that the grandkid generation in our family is growing up, they range from 24 to 8 years old and we have been presented with yet another way to embrace diversity. The LGBTQ+ community. My twin daughters have grown up with openness and diversity in their home and extended family, so it naturally came out in conversation that they both had broader feelings on gender equality and relations. They dated both males and females in high school and now college. We didn’t have a big coming out moment like some families do. We were simply sitting on our couch talking and my twin daughter Catie said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m dating Hannah now.’ My response was, ‘That’s great!’ Nothing more than that.
My daughter’s have felt so comfortable with being themselves at home and talking about anything and everything related to their identities that their confidence spreads out into our own community. We now have friends of our daughter’s coming to our home who feel comfortable enough to share how they really feel about being transgender and sharing with us their chosen names. These kids can’t even tell their own parents how they feel out of fear of ridicule or abandonment. It breaks my heart that they’re not accepted by their own families. After all, if you don’t get acceptance in the home, how will you ever feel accepted in the world? If I can help this newer LGBTQ+ generation feel like my parents made us feel about being in a biracial blended family, than I think we are on the way to a better world.
I’m proud to be the mother to three kind, accepting (in every sense of the word), and open-minded children. I’m very proud to be part of a family that saw no color or difference in their brothers and sisters, who would stick together through all the staring and judgement. I’m equally proud to be the daughter of a feisty mama-bear who wouldn’t stop at anything to give her children a better world. She made me into the accepting mother, sister, and daughter I am today.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Carrie Korkie of Dover, Pennsylvania. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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