When I was a young girl, I had a prayer I would say every night.
It started with the standard little kid prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and then changed a bit, I think because my parents didn’t want me to get freaked out by the whole “if I should die before I wake” business.
Well after that part, there was a little add-on wherein I gave shout outs to all the people I knew. I still remember it, verbatim:
“God bless Mommy and Daddy
and Kris and Kisa [don't know why the talking about myself in the 3rd person; this was pre-Elmo]
and Nana and Tata [grandparents on the Mexican side]
and Oma and Opa [grandparents on the German side]
and all our aunts and uncles and cousins and friends,
and Kris and his spots,
in Jesus’ name, amen."
Kris and his spots?
As you might know, Kris is my brother.
“Spots” was the kid term my parents taught us to describe Kris’ vitiligo [vih-dill-EYE-go], technically defined as "a skin condition resulting from loss of pigment, which produces white patches."
Kris' vitiligo appeared on his hands, elbows, and knees, and the spots would alternately grow and diminish as he got older. The doctors couldn’t predict whether they would ever stabilize, so the possibility of their growing to cover a significant portion of his skin was very real.
Thinking about that prayer now, I realize it would be difficult for anyone who overheard it to know whether we were praying for the disappearance of the spots or for their continued growth and power. It almost sounds like we were hoping his skin would, everyday, look less and less like its original shade (described affectionately by my mom as “poodoo brown”) and more and more like the shade of my own (which she calls “stock white”).
But we knew. We definitely knew.
The spots were evil.
They made him stand out.
The kids at school teased him.
The spots were a kid’s worst nightmare.
So imagine my surprise when the spots earned a new place of merit in our family just the other evening.
Indulge me while I provide a little background information.
Kris is currently working as a production assistant on a Lifetime television show called “Merge.” Production Assistant is a very broad title that could refer to anything from actual technical assistance to the picking up of the director’s dry cleaning.
Kris’ position falls somewhere in-between the two. “Merge” is a quote/unquote reality show in which a couple that has recently married moves into a new place together. The designers on the show decide which of their things can stay and go, and they do a makeover on the new space once everything is in place.
Production assistants on this show work as movers. They’re the ones who put the couple’s things where the designer decides they should go. Now, there are a few production assistants working on any given episode, and sometimes the camera shots are so quick it’s difficult to tell who’s who (because even the movers, in this case, get airtime).
My mom had taped last week’s show, and we sat down and watched it together when Kris and I were out visiting last week. We were all sitting in front of the t.v. on-edge, hoping to catch a glimpse of my bro on the tube.
Sometimes we could see him very clearly and up close, and sometimes it was more of a challenge. Once, it was up for debate because only the person’s arm was in view. Was that him or wasn’t it?
Kris solved the mystery with this line:
“No, that’s me. Look, you can see my vitiligo.”
“Huh,” we answered, collectively. "We’ll be darned. That is your vitiligo.”
We joked a little about the vigor with which he reported the clue: Look, look, it’s my condition. It’s my disorder. It’s my defect. It’s ME!!
The moment caused me to pause, thinking how far we’d come from hoping the “spots” would just go away. Just go away!
And to be honest, they haven’t been an issue for Kris for a good 15 years. In fact, he’s always had a strong sense of self and I suspect the condition was always more troubling for my mom than for Kris. He was her child, and this was something that had the potential to cause him heartache.
Kids can be so cruel.
And yet even as he’s long past being self-conscious, to hear my brother so proudly identify himself using the condition we once saw as so threatening we tried to pray it away every single night...
...that was kind of cool.
It’s interesting the way things that make us different can change from enemy traits to ally traits in the course of a few years. I used to hate being so tall (particularly in middle school and high school, where Amazon women aren’t in real high demand). I also disliked my name because it was weird and people couldn’t pronounce it (Keisha, Keeza, Kissa?). Now I’m happy to be an Amazon woman with a weird name, partially because those things make me different.
Oh my god, I’ve lapsed into After School Special mode again.
Forgive me, but I really feel this way.
I hope that if I ever have a kid with three arms or an extra face in the middle of his back…well, I hope he or she can learn to embrace that trait and, eventually, use it to his or her advantage: “Can I lend an extra hand?” “I know my back was turned officer, but believe me, I did see the robber, and he went thataway!”
I mean really, who wants normal?
And so yeah, God bless Kris and his spots.