"Yes, yes." My father waves his hands. "You'll meet them later."
He is short like me, his weathered skin dark as plums. A strip of wiry black hair encircles the back of his head. There's a space in his mouth where a tooth should be. I don't see the broad-shouldered rugby player who stared out from my wall all those years. The only feature I recognize is that round nose.
A blur flashes tan and red in the hallway. I glance up to see a velvety-brown girl in a scarlet school uniform receding into the dimness, familiar eyes stunned wide. A face I could swear is mine.
It's not possible, I tell myself. Even if the girl in the hall is my sister, we have different mothers of different races. How can we look alike? For twenty-six years I have been an only child, the only child. The only New World African among Scandinavian Americans. The only Black member of our family, our town.
My father is explaining that during Christmas we'll travel to our ancestral village, where I will be formally presented to the extended family and clan elders.
Christmas has always been white. After my mother and grandparents reconciled and we moved to their farm, I grew up hearing Finnish spoken, with a wreath of candles in my curls on St. Lucia Day. Mummi, my Finnish grandmother, and I spent all December at the kitchen table cutting out nissu, little Swedish pigs, and six-point stars from the almond-scented dough. Before baking, we painted them with tiny brushes like the ones she used for tinting family photographs, and the world we created, with its blue snowmen and yellow pigs, was equally whimsical. Sheet after sheet of cookies emerged from the oven transformed, the egg paint set into a deep, satiny glaze.
Each night Old Pappa, my Swedish grandfather, and I set candles in the windows or built snow lanterns in the yard for the tonttu, farm sprites, and I imagined that we were conductors on the Underground Railroad, lighting the way for runaway slaves.