The Well Magazine Fall/Winter 2013 - Page 21

FAMILY REUNION I stared at the photo of the little boy—a little boy I had never seen before. When I was a little girl, I loved looking at old photographs. I would thumb through the pages of my family’s photo albums, fascinated by the scenes of the “old days.” One day as I sat in the living room looking at the captured memories of the past, I came across photos of a little boy. I didn’t recognize him. Or maybe I had just never noticed his photo before. Maybe the photos were tucked away and forgotten but this day had decided to slip out of their hiding place. Was he a member of our family? He reminded me of my cousin Anthony. Like Anthony he was “light-skinned” as black folks called African Americans of a lighter complexion. His hair was not extra curly and puffy like mine before my mother applied the straightening comb to it. It was black, thick and wavy. Was that another picture of him with a white woman in the snow? Maybe that’s why he was so light. Was that his mother? “Who is this?” I asked my mother. “Your brother,” she said nonchalantly without any explana- about this mysterious brother. Where was he now? Why didn’t he live with us? I wanted to meet him. But from the fact that I was just finding out I had a brother and the fact that his photos were not displayed and he was not talked about, even in my childlike understanding I knew it was probably a touchy subject. A family secret. But I vowed in my mind that day, that one day I would meet my brother. The Letters Like the photos tucked away in the photo album, across the ocean, a box of letters was hidden away in a closet. In the 50s, my father was stationed in Germany. He met Margot, a young German woman who was a single mother. They became friends and lovers. He received his orders to return to the United States. She told him she was pregnant before he left. In Germany at that time, if a child was born out of wedlock, the child became a ward of the state and was often sent to an orphanage. In post World War II there were horrific stories about what would happen to babies in orphanages, es- ers brings a father and son together tion, as if this was something that I should know or had always known. My brother? Another brother. It was the first time I had ever heard of my brother. To that point the only brother that I knew of was my brother who was six years my elder, Kenneth Edward. How could this be possible? Obviously, this brother had to be from another mother. I believe my mother gave me a brief explanation later. My father had a child when he was a soldier stationed in Germany. He was born before my parents were married. His name was Walter. Walter. Walter. He looked like such a sweet boy with a shy, kind smile. I was excited. I had another brother. Another family member. We had our perfect American family. Two parents. Two kids. A son and a daughter. But now I had a brother in Germany that I had never seen before. I wanted to learn more pecially “Brown Babies” the offspring of African-American servicemen. “Brown Babies" were the children born to black soldiers and white European women during and after World War II. Known as "Mischlingskinder" in German, by 1955 AfricanAmerican soldiers had fathered about 5,000 mischlingskinder in Occupied Germany, according to some estimates. My father left a letter stating he was the father of Margot’s child so that when the child was born there would be proof that he had a father. When Walter was born in November 1955, my father’s name was on the birth certificate that Margot sent him. “She was exp