Saturday, August 19, 2006

Overheard

This week at the gym during my "mommy time" I was approached by a former NIA student whom I hadn't seen in a while. She's a really nice lady with grown kids. Now that I am paying for a babysitter when I go to the gym, my workout is well-choreographed down to the minute. I am so aware of the time that I often forego a trip to the water fountain between machines because it gets me off schedule.

So I was a little flummoxed to be chatting during the 3.6 minutes I have allotted for hair-combing, moisturizer-applying and rueful grimacing at my undereye circles in the mirror. I really got a jolt, however, after the niceties had been dispensed with and she moved on to bigger topics. "So..." she began in a conspiratorial whisper, "...are you a mom?" I paused in mid-detangle and stared. "Oh. Yes!" "Oh, goodie!" she clapped. "Let me be the first to hear the details!"

Readers, this request came as some relief. I have often quite truthfully revealed that the months of February, March and April 2006 are completely lost to me. I haven't the slightest recollection of what happened during that time unless I look at my own blog. But here was someone who did not suddenly become a toddler mom six months ago who STILL doesn't have any sense of time. I'm off the hook!

Even weirder, I had a profound sense of "this is your life" as I replied, "Actually, you're not even close to being the first to hear the details, because we've been home from China for six months." (Don't worry, I said this with a puckish smile, so it wasn't too rude.) Wow. How about that? I've been doing this gig for six months. Sometimes it seems like the blink of an eye. Other times it seems that my life came to a screeching halt and I started a totally new, fresh life, only with the same brain.

I also had a funny conversation at "My Gym" this week. A gal whom I (correctly) suspected was Chinese was playing with her daughter in the "holding pen" when I came in early. "How old is she?" she asked. I told her. And then, just as casually, "Is your husband Asian?"

I've been getting this question a lot recently. And often from Asians. Which I find really interesting. For one thing, it's kind of a direct and personal question to ask someone with whom you don't even have a nodding acquaintance. Also, it makes me want to ask, "Would that be your guess, or is it just because I'm here?" When I said, "No, she was adopted from China," she widened her eyes and said "Ohhhhh." Short silence. Then, "That must have been exciting!" "Which part?" I asked. I felt strangely liberated from normal social propriety. "You must have gone there," she clarified. "Yes," I agreed, "that was very exciting."

We ended up talking for some time about the meaning of Jarrah's Chinese name (she asked what it was) and how it has always confused me that it's a comparitive with no comparison. "Mei" is "beautiful," and "Ruo" is "as if or resembling," which always makes me think, "as beautiful as WHAT?" Turns out there is some sort of implied literary reference to a goddess that people in China would instantly recognize. That was pretty cool.

I am fascinated by the conversations that have suddenly become an ordinary feature of my daily life. For instance, if Jarrah were my biological daughter, I wouldn't be approached by Asian moms who are curious about her, or at least not Asian moms in particular. (One day at Balboa Park, a gal peered in Jarrah's stroller and asked, "Is she Korean?" She herself was Korean, and adopted. She introduced us to her daughter, who did look a bit like Jarrah.) I enjoy these conversations, most of the time. They make me feel more integrated with the world, or something. I don't really have the words for it. Maybe someday I will.

3 comments:

Suzanne said...

I like the "which part" answer. I think I'll use that.

Mary and Paul said...

I love to hear your stories of how others react to you. I always put myself right there and think, "I wouldn't have been as quick as Sam."

Missing you this week,

Mary

Anonymous said...

As an AA, I think other AA who approach you probably do so partly because they feel more comfortable with you, thinking you accept/like A if you adopted one (or the father of your child is AA). We live in a largely still segregated society and most people of different races look for signs they won't be rejected before they approach. Most likely looking for possible friends or just curious.
Take care, Lin