I’ve got two white grandmas. Now, I might have big lips and dark skin and eat iyan every other day, but I’ve got two white grandmas. I’m almost six years old, and I think I know what’s what by now. My favorite grandma lives ‘cross the street. We’ve been in her house hundreds of times and by we I mean my lil’ brother and me. My other lil’ brother doesn’t do much. He’s zero-years old and just sits around and cries. Doesn’t even laugh! Though one time he did pee in my face when I was changing his diaper. He laughed then. I didn’t try to play with him all too much after that.
Anyways, like I was saying me and my brother go in and out of grandma-cross-the-street’s place. We’ve seen pictures of her son and his wife and their kids. I bet those kids don’t even know who we are but guess what? We share the same grandma. Sometimes we sit on her fancy old couch in her fancy old room and eat those fancy old cookies that come in that blue, circular, tin box. You know the ones. She pats us on the head and tells us sweet somethin’s or however that phrase goes. I can never understand what she’s saying, but I love her.
Our other grandma’s German. That’s what Daddy says. She lives in the dark house right next to ours and she’s always raisin’ a crooked finger in the air and tellin’ us not to go near her beer hops. That’s the bush that separates our house from grandma’s. I’m not all too sure what beer is, but grandma told us not to go near it so we don’t. Not that we would anyways. The little strip of land between our house and grandma’s house has been deemed ‘Death Valley’. No one goes down there. No one. ‘Cept Daddy of course. Someone’s gotta cut the grass. Me and my brother? We only go through that death trap when it means life or death. Or when we have to get to the back or front yard.
If grandma ‘cross the street was light, grandma right beside us was dark. Her house was always hung in darkness, even on the brightest of days. Her side of ‘Death Valley’ was dark. Her skin, wrinkled and weathered by time, was also dark, but not as dark as mine. One day I decided to open my big, buck-teeth havin’ mouth and ask the obvious. ‘Why’s my Daddy black?’. Mom almost dropped the big pot of beans she was about to cook. If Mom’s black and Daddy’s black too, how are both my grandma’s white? It just doesn’t add up. Mom gave me a small smile and laughed, shaking her head and turning her attention back to her beans. I don’t remember getting an answer.
For as long as I can remember, my grandmas have just been my grandmas. Daddy says my grandmas lived here even before Mom and Daddy did. They’re so old, I don’t even think I can count that high, and I’m pretty good at numbers in class. They’ve gotta be at least two hundred years old or somethin’. I tell my cousins and they think it’s so cool. I tell my little brother and he looks at me like I’m a genius. I tell my other little brother. He just spits up. I don’t tell my friends. None of them have got different colored grandmas. I don’t know why, but I think that makes me special and not in a good way. I think it’s in the way that would make Gabby make fun of me. And Rose tell me that I’m stupid. And Peter tell me I’m dumb.
I don’t think Josh would call me any names. He’s my best friend and he’s black. David wouldn’t say anything either. He’s Nigerian, same as me. Daddy says that we’ve got to stick together and be best friends since out of the whole of Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School, we’re the only black kids. Or at least, as far as I know. The middle school is for the big kids, and we never see what goes on over there. I’m not sure if Josh or David have got white or black grandmas. I’m not sure if they would care if I’ve got white grandmas. I’m not sure if they feel left out sometimes, too. As if all the other white kids in our school have got something that I don’t. I’m not sure.
You see, there was a time I didn’t see color, and back then it was okay. A time when I’d pick out Apricot and Peach and Tan from my sixty four-count Crayola Crayons with the pencil sharpener in the back to color in the drawing of myself. A time when my short, stubby fingers would twirl and breeze over Raw Sienna and Sepia, Copper and Brown. A time when I’d go by Michelle instead of Kikelomo. A time when my last name was “Oh-gun-see-more” instead of “Oh-goon-shé-moré”.
Time has passed and, for better or for worse, I see color and color sees me. It stares at me with the eyes of Gabby and Rose and Peter. It tells me that it matters—that it cannot go ignored in a society reliant on self-identification. I have learned to stare back. I see what my color means to others and what others’ means to me. I see what my color means to me. Now, I pick out my colors with an emboldened sense of self.
Kike Ogunsemore lives in Dacula, Georgia and is completing her degree in Cell & Molecular Biology at Augusta University in May 2019. She plans on starting medical school in the fall at the Medical College of Georgia. In her free time, she loves to read fiction novels and work on her writing in the hopes that they will one day be published. This is her first nonfiction piece and her first published work. Find Kike on Instagram here.