Yesterday, I shared the wild details inside my childhood family bubble that, while full of love, sometimes wreaked havoc on my nervous system. It was nothing like what it felt to be outside in the real world. I was a 1st grader in Mrs. Lusk’s class. Although I was confident and assertive at home; at school, I cried all the time and was anxious and shy. But my classroom felt safe—poking fun at other kids was not tolerated.

Mark, a kid I went all the way through high school with, remembers me crying all the time. He saw our 30-year reunion as an opportunity to share this embarrassing detail with my husband. My husband said, “Well, she makes other people cry now.” He’s not very funny so I was really proud of his snappy reply. He probably just meant that I make him cry.

Mark even brought it up on Facebook in a fun joking way. I had posted a photo of a beautiful hotel pool in the Italian Alps. He said, “A pool made from every tear Kami Gray shed in Mrs. Lusk’s first grade classroom! 😂” I replied, “That would be a much bigger pool Mark!”

My parents adopted my Black brother, an adorable and extremely loud 20-month old, when I was 5. The year was 1972. I had some new feelings arise when he joined our family: embarrassment and shame. I wanted to be normal. I didn’t want to stand out and be different. I didn’t want our neighbors to talk about us.

What developed for me was two lives; one inside my home and one outside my home. Inside we were a loving family and I felt free of the shame. Outside our home, I was a freak. It didn’t help that I had this nervous habit of licking my lips, which left a crusty red circle around my mouth. At recess, away from my safe classroom, the other kids poked fun at me for this and were constantly asking me about my Black brother.

Inside this home I see breathtaking beauty and unorthodox design elements—the interesting house “on the block.” Tomorrow, I’ll show you how it presents itself to the outside world. I didn’t have that inner and outer alignment as a kid and probably a lot of us didn’t. That’s our journey. To slowly bring what’s inside out and let it proudly shine its light onto the world. It takes time. 📸 @lisaromerein