Because my mother is Puerto Rican, my grandmother Beatrice was convinced that I was going to come out of the womb black. Beatrice is my father’s mother; she crosses her legs, knits sweaters, and reads the Times. My mother is a thin white woman with auburn hair who looks every bit Protestant, but that’s just because she shops in Garden City of Long Island. From the way my father tells the story of my birth, though, everyone in the hospital knew she was Puerto Rican. Puerto Ricans believe that the louder the woman screams during labor, the more beautiful the baby will be. My mother Yolanda screamed as if she hadn’t had two glasses of white wine when she began her contractions. Imagine my grandmother’s surprise when I came out looking like a cute little devil. (Redheads are never spoken of as sweet angels no matter how cute we are.)
The day I was born was the first day my grandparents began speaking with my parents again. My father refused to accept the bribe of a corvette and a country club membership if he did not marry my mother. Since he turned his parents offer down and chose my mother as his family, telephone lines were cut. Then there was an announcement made that Stephanie Tara was born at 4:38 p.m., 6 lbs. 4 oz. Once my grandmother saw that I was indeed white, she offered to throw a baby shower. A baby shower, unlike a wedding, is a place where people should not feel insulted. It’s never the case that this one cannot believe that you thought she should be seated at the very same table as that one. Showers truly are celebrations… except when you mingle my mother’s family with my father’s.