I am an adoptee, a product of the social views of the 1960s, when to be an unwed mother was paramount to wearing a scarlet ‘P’, defining a woman as ‘promiscuous’, and therefore of little or no value to society. That my birth mother gave me up for adoption instead of opting for a back-room abortion conveys only the positive aspects to her character. I am forever indebted to her extraordinary love for me in making the difficult choice to give me life, and then to let me go.
The family who adopted me was an educated and loving family. They were WASP, white-skinned and blue-eyed, and treated me as their own. Though I was documented as a Caucasian person by the Department of Social Services, I came to understand that both of my birth parents also carried a Native American lineage. That was a deeply buried fact, which may have precluded me from mainstream adoption in 1962 had the truth been revealed.
During my bounteous childhood, I was not only a Daddy’s Girl, but I also developed a deep attachment to my adoptive maternal grandfather. As far as the eye could see, my grandfather ruled a plane of perfection. There was truly nothing he could do or say that I would consider wrong.
I was twelve when I discovered that my beloved grandfather was in fact, a narrow-minded racist.
The evolution of events that led me to this epiphany were as predictable as choosing the correct numbers for the weekly lottery. In other words, the realization came out of left field, and blindsided me. I would have had better odds at winning a hand of poker, than detecting this characteristic in the man who I had always known as an inveterate jokester, and a brilliant artist and photographer.
Without going into a very complex and long-winded story, suffice it to say that the event was a harsh awakening. When my grandfather said, “Look at those people, thinking they can be like us,” he was really speaking to me, as well as to anyone non-white, or of a biracial or multiethnic background. Though I hadn’t been an innocent for some time (cussing cleared the air of that quality), the painful awareness that the world is a place of judgment and severe color-sight, was made all the more egregious because it was my grandfather who’d served me that rotten dish on a shining white platter.
Racism is a central theme to most of my fiction writing. But, so is tolerance. In Road Apples, it was very important to me that I frame characters that comprehended the world in all of its glorious color, including the cruelty of discrimination, but had the gift to love one another in spite of the chasm of prejudice inherent to us all. To say that one is colorblind is as great a lie as saying one is without flaws. We are all as flawed as we are biased. Even a blind person listens to a situation with sensitive ears, and extrapolates the outcome based upon life’s experiences, and personal bias.
In Road Apples, the two main characters understand the numerous conflicts at their periphery, but they also submit to mutual honesty, so that love can flourish.
Madeline Benités, an independent young woman, has been raised in the Bay Area in northern California, where the term ‘Melting Pot’ is less a cross-culture theme, than the demarcation of culture and ethnicity.
And Wyatt McLain, a man in his fifties, spent his formative years tutored in the Quinault Indian culture, and in the stark facts of life, by his loving Aunt Doreen on the Quinault Reservation in Washington State. Being an Indian man residing in Tacoma was only remedied by driving a Crown Victoria, so that the local police wouldn’t hassle him.
As a woman who has been married across cultures for almost twenty-five years, and who is a product of interracial marriage consisting of generations of tolerance that bears strange fruit, the love story of Madeline and Wyatt could be my own. Only when you forget that you and your lover are different, when you walk down a long road totally colorblind, and completely in love, are you able to transcend the bitterness that humanity has cast upon its own ability to make peace.
In Road Apples, Wyatt McLain stresses that people often abandon the will to war when laughter – as well as love – is the point of focus. He tells Madeline that he figures “people can’t argue if they’re laughing together.” Madeline later describes Wyatt as a “kind man, a loving man; a man of constant peace, not a fighter.”
And yet, Wyatt and Madeline are united in a silent battle, not against racism or sexism, or the ills of society, but the fight for a future. Life, with its obstacles, somehow finds its mystic alignment, where fate overcomes free will. This is the message behind Road Apples.
I invite you to read Road Apples. Perhaps it will invoke a simple humility in a world where faith, whether of the religious sort, or the strength of a loving heart, is often cast to the wayside.