In the lakefront park on the north edge of Chicago near where my sister lives, where we spent an hour on Sunday afternoon, I was reminded of the dilemmas of our life.

There were 2 adults (parents or grandparents, I don’t know which) playing with 2 small children; I’d guess they were of Japanese descent. A young Orthodox couple walked down to the wall at the top of the beach & sat talking, not touching of course. A black woman watched her almost-2-year-old son run around the playground. A young white man put his baby into a frame backpack & left, giving us an opportunity to start talking (we both admired the backpack).

I asked if her son had had his first haircut yet. No, she said, I want to do it but his dad says wait until his 2nd birthday. (Dad was in the park too, till he announced that halftime was over & he’d see them at home.) Then she looked at me & smiled & said, “You know, don’t you”- statement, not question.

Yes, I do know. There’s a lot I don’t know about Black American culture, but I do know a little about the importance & rituals about hair. We raised a black baby boy for 18 months till he went to his family. I learned.

So there we were, 3 white women (me, my partner, & my sister) accompanied by our blond-haired blue-eyed boy with pinkish skin & our black-haired, dark-eyed boy with chocolate skin … who by the way was loving having Black people around him. He’s 5, and he really notices who’s Black & who’s White.

I’d felt a little nervous as we walked to the park on the lake. Here we are, 2 white middle-class lesbians, in a very mixed (economically, racially, culturally) urban neighborhood. It’s not where I live any more & I felt like we stuck out a lot. Funny, I thought, how I take being lesbian for granted at home but was worrying a little in Chicago, just because it’s unfamiliar territory.

Our little guy doesn’t see that many black faces in his life. We have to do better about that. So I was very glad for his sake that we were at that park. Enjoyed myself too. And it turns out that we were living our new friend’s dream, with our 6 acres & our chickens. But not many black faces where we live.

When I got home I commented about this to our friend who was born in the Dominican Republic. “We make the best choices we can, as mothers,” she reminded me. She and her daughters live near Rotterdam, New York … not exactly a hotbed of multi-culturalism! “We choose to live where we do because we think it is the best thing for our family.”