A banker might say she's fortunate; a gambler might call it luck. And if you're spiritual, call it providence.
Amanda Simmons, 17, can't explain the grace with which she seems to have handled potentiallysticky situations. She is the daughter of a black father and a whitemother, living in a society whose racial prejudices can be hard on the products of an interracial marriage.
"Really, I've never had any problems with it whatsoever," said Simmons. She attends Meade High, which at 33.1 percent has the largest percentage of black students among county high schools.
A senior bound for George Washington University, where she plans to play soccerand major in engineering, Simmons carries a 3.94 grade-point averageand scored 1290 on her Scholastic Aptitude Test.
Simmons is also a two-time All-County soccer player for the Mustangs. She set the county's career goals scoring record with 80 last fall, and also runs indoor and outdoor track, recently placing second in both the county and regional indoor meets in the 500-meter dashes.
Simmons, who stands just 5-foot-2 1/2 and weighs 120 pounds, cultivates relationships as easily as she maneuvers through the classroom or through that tight, specialized defensive marking she often faced on the soccer field.
Just ask Allison Nethan, who for the past three years has played club soccer alongside Simmons on the five-time State Cup-champion Columbia Crusaders squad.
"When I first figured out who her parents were, I was a little surprised, but it really doesn't make any difference either way," said Allison, who attends Lake Shore's Chesapeake High, a school with a student body that is 94.5 percent white and 5.5 percent minority, including 4.2 percent black.
"Everybody's made the same. We all share the same emotions," said Allison. "You shouldn'tmake judgments unless you're really close to a person. Amanda's a really great person and a really great friend."
Amanda's coping skills, said her mother, Linda Simmons, 42, were apparent even before shereached kindergarten. While sitting next to her husband, Frank, 48, Saturday on the living room couch in their Hanover home, Linda recounted an early incident.
"A little girl was looking at Amanda very curiously; staring and staring," her mother recalled with humor. "Finally, she said to Amanda, 'Are you black or white?' So Amanda says, 'Neither, I'm brown.' The little girl was like, 'OK.' So that was the end of that."
"I'd meet most of my friends at school, like in elementary school, and they already knew who my mother was because she belonged to the PTA," Amanda said. "But then people wouldcome over to the house and see my dad. Nothing was ever said, but you could just see kind of a reaction (in their eyes). But it was nevera big deal."
Every American has at least two heritages, and Amanda's makeup includes more than just her black and white cultures. Linda has both an English and Scottish background, and Frank has been tracing his roots.
Amanda discusses with humor the various forms she and her older brother, David, have completed, none of which had a category for racially mixed children.
"When we were little, we used to joke about what we could put down," she said with a chuckle. "It used to just be 'other.' And then we used to joke, 'Can I be Mexican this year?' But now I just put down 'black' as my minority affiliation."
"For some reason or another, you can be half-and-half of everything else, but all you need is an ounce of black and you're black," said Frank, an engineering manager for a firm in Prince George's County. "And you just accept it because that's the way it's always been."
Frank, who has four brothers and three sisters, was born in Birmingham, Ala., and joined the Navy at age 17.
"I went to a segregated school. There was no integration before I left Alabama, so the freedom riots, the bombings, the Montgomery bus boycotts -- I experienced all those things," said Frank, who graduated from the Naval Academy in1968.
"I didn't get a good talking to from my parents before I left (for the Navy), or anything, but I was raised in the Baptist church and took . . . my parents' good values with me."
Linda had one older brother and grew up in a Protestant home in Coalport, a small Pennsylvania coal mining town of about 800. people. She also left home at 17, but for a lucrative clerical position in Washington.
"I grew up in a little place, so the whole atmosphere of Washington wasn't something that my parents thought was appropriate for their daughter," said Linda, who now works as a secretary.
A year later, Linda met Frank through her best friend, who was dating Frank's best friend and Naval Academy classmate.
"I wasn't looking for a husband," saidLinda, who was 18. "And I definitely wasn't looking for a wife," added Frank, who was assigned to Washington, making their courtship convenient.
When they were married a year later, Linda was 19, Frank 25. The reaction from Frank's parents was of apprehension initially, but never of admonishment.
"My parents and I were estranged for several years," said Linda. "But it worked itself out rather quickly."
David was born in California in 1971. Amanda was born in Japan three years later.
"Both of our children have mixed well with both blacks and whites," said Frank.
Said Linda: "You hope you teach your children to accept people as individuals. The fact that someone is black or white shouldn't have any more significance than the fact that someone is 20 or 30."
"We don't sit down and have these talks about how you do this and how you do that," Amanda said. "My parents havejust set a good example for me. I guess everybody would like to be able to look to their parents."