A Beautiful Bond…

I  M  P  R  I  N  T  I  N  G

A rapid learning process by which a newborn or very young animal establishes a behavior pattern of recognition and attraction to another animal of its own kind or to a substitute or an object identified as the parent.

During my first three years of life I “Bonded with Blackness.” I once heard somebody say this and it made sense to me. It’s how I’ve come to explain strange emotional reactions I have to certain physical triggers.

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1962. Sadly, Apartheid was in full swing. My father had a job opportunity and he took it, leaving New York and everything he knew behind, well, not everything, he took his wife and children, too. My mother was pregnant with me, and my sister was three-years-old when they journeyed to that faraway land.

After I was born, I was cared for by a Xhosa nanny, Violet. When I see a picture of her, my eyes always well up with tears. One time I was watching home movies with my family. When Violet came on the screen, I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion. I became inconsolable. I had to leave the room. I was an adult by that time. The feeling behind my reaction is one of extreme longing and sadness – I have no other way to explain it. It’s a reflex that’s buried deep in my heart.

I had a friend in high school, Mimi Fisher, who was born in Japan and spent the first few years of her life being cared for by a Japanese nanny. One day we were talking, sharing histories, as you do, and stumbled upon this weird similarity. She explained that her response to Asian women, specifically Japanese women, was exactly the same as my response to African women.

My mother has told me that after we returned to New York, I continued to look for Violet’s beautiful face — Violet had loved me and taken care of all my needs. I’ve somehow equated her face and her spirit with a total sense of security – something on a cellular level. My mother, on more than one occasion, would have to explain to complete strangers, why her three-year-old daughter was pointing and acting so excited to see them. The memory and bond would kick in. Fifty years later, it’s still there. Incredible.


I often wonder why I had this experience and what I’m meant to do with my understanding of it. I know that our first few years of life are precious and that WE DO leave an indelible impression on those we care for. I also know that LOVE is LOVE, it transcends all, it’s something universal that each of us understands.** I hope I see her on the other side so I can thank her for her love and care.