Life wrapped each of us differently. My mom’s skin looks like fall mahogany
wood dried after soaking in baths of olive oil. My sister’s skin reminds me of a summer
roasted peach. My dad’s skin is like a quilt of sun-bleached, well-worn autumn leaves.
And mine strikes me as a gaggle of ominous constellations sprawled across a golden sky.
Skin cancer runs as deep in my family as the lust for adventure.
My dad would pay any amount of money to get more melanin in his skin. He
reminds me of a plant. On sunny days, he sits reading like a grateful stray cat: He
unfolds, blooms and soaks in the sun’s drenching glory. My dad passed on his thirst for
adventure, his sense of wonder, and his skin to me. My sister tells me that I am “white person
tan” -- that my skin looks too gold, like a spray tan. I feel the prettiest in the spring, summer and
early fall when the gold makes me feel like a wild goddess. On the days when the sun
overflows, my friends and I catapult off cliffs into thrillingly cold hidden lakes, surf until the sun’s yolk drips below the horizon, run through backtrails populated by wildflowers and ferns until my legs are numb, lazily bike through town for ice cream in the late afternoon, gossip and giggle by the pool wrinkled with streams of light, and awe at sunsets from grassy peaks. These days paint my skin their shades of happy.
My mom is a deeply thoughtful woman. She reminds me of peonies, snow
leopards, and libraries. To me, she doesn’t have a scent because she smells like
everything and anything. In every memory she is there. She thinks of everything before
the thought has even been conceived in your mind, she can find any possession in the
house, she can sense any roll of the eye no matter how quickly you do it or if she is
turned away at the time. She gives the best hugs, and she can never get burned by the
sun. Her skin slurps up its radiance, stores it and glows like humble embers. But embers
burn out into ash. My mom turns grey from being in the sun too much. I always thought
you could never get too much sun. It’s proven to make you happy.
She lived in Portland to be with my dad for a year. It rained harder there than
the days of Noah’s Ark. She loved the sun but she loved my dad; so, she stayed. She
stayed and her skin wasn’t grey. But my dad loved her and thought her grey skin was
prettier than any paycheck from a job, so they moved here. They found Marin when they
were at a friend’s wedding. They fell in love with the tree-lined streets, sleeping mountains,
small-town buzz, the smell of jasmine and the hopeful toddlers with rosy plump cheeks that
effortlessly plodded down the streets. They heard that nearby there was a school named
Branson that was as pretty as they come. As they walked through the clusters of
mansion-esque classrooms, they said to themselves, what a dream it would be to have a kid and
them to go to this movie-set school. They both dismissed it as just that -- a dream. They are
hard workers; it was hardwired in their DNA, almost as if it was tattooed on their skin.
So, I am here now:
sitting at a harkness table breathing through my mind at the movie-set school with my
skin that is not too white but gold.