I ran into her at the Solstice Faire this past weekend. She is in her mid-thirties now, but she was just 12 when I first met and interviewed Bethany for a paper I was doing on Pagan children. I have the transcript from that afternoon in a box somewhere in the attic. The paper itself never quite jelled.
But I remember Bethany. That day, 20 some years ago, she proudly showed me the altar she had created and carefully explained the meanings of everything she had chosen for it. She served me cookies and talked of all kinds of things: religion, school, Raggedy Ann, and how she had just applied to a children’s writing camp for the summer.
And then she said something I’ll never forget.
“I’m half Black, one quarter American Indian, one quarter white, and one quarter Irish,” she told me proudly. “I like it but it gets confusing sometimes when I have to check one of those boxes about race at school.”
“What do you check?” I asked curiously.
“Usually I just wait until the teacher comes over. I explain and she tells me to just check Other.
“But I’m not an Other!” she protested. “I’m, a whole new thing!”
And, of course, she is. Even at 12, with a 12 year-old’s understanding of fractions, Bethany knew that she was more than the sum of her parts.