My first son was born in South Africa. My homeland. My motherland. The place where my heart is buried deep beneath a jacaranda tree heavy with purple petals. Such a tree waits at the top of my parents’ drive to welcome guests. I would take you there if I could. It’s where my son’s best friend, closer than a brother lives. That’s them in the side bar on the “sweet stuff” button. Jackson and Karabo. Nose to nose, head to head, hand to hand, they were destined for friendship before Jackson was even born.

Karabo is my baby brother (pronounced Kah-ra-bauw). He is Jackson’s uncle. But these are the words grown-ups use. Because to Karabo, Jackson has always been “my baby” as in, “Give me my baby, Lisa-Jo”, “put my baby next to me, Lisa-Jo” “what are you doing with my baby, Lisa-Jo?”

To Jackson, Karabo has always been big brother, hero and best bud. Whenever we are home in South Africa I am either one child short or have one extra for the duration of the stay. Because Jackson and Karabo must do everything together at all times.

They see each other in technicolor, but it’s taken years before they noticed each other in black and white.

Kids crammed in the back seat of the car on the way back from a birthday party. Karabo sandwiched between two blond-haired, blue-eyed buddies from church. Jackson was still a car seat baby back then. Says the little boy, “Karabo, someone at the party told me you were black.” The little girl tilts her head, squints an eye and inspects Karabo closely, “What? You’re not black!” To which the little boy contemplatively responds, “Yea, you’re more like a dark grayish.”

Jackson watching a cartoon. One of his favorite characters is black. Someone asks him, “look, Jack, that little boy is just like Karabo.” Jackson responds, “Why?”

Just this year a couple weeks before Jackson turns four he is looking over my shoulder as I blog. He excitedly spots the picture of himself and Karabo in the side bar. He is thrilled. Then he pauses and looks closer and says, “Karabo is dark, mama. I am light. Look at that. Karabo is darker and I am lighter.”

Just like that. In the same way he might have said, “Karabo is bigger and I am smaller; Karabo is taller and I am shorter; or Karabo is in South Africa and I am in America.”

Just like that.

It makes me smile every time I see the two of them over there on the sidebar.  This Tuesday, I wanted to pause and share the story behind my favorite photograph. In celebration of the ordinary.

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