I am not bothered by many things in life…
I often wonder if this is because, when I was younger, I never thought much about anything. Ever.
For example, I did not realize, when Cliff asked me to marry him, that I was entering into an interracial marriage. A friend at work told me. I didn’t care one way or the other, but I really hadn’t given it much thought.
I did notice, when we went to Chinatown in New York, that older Chinese people would sometimes give me “looks”, but I quickly decided it wasn’t personal because they didn’t know me. Cliff’s family knew me and loved me and that was good enough.
When our first child, Eric, was born my roommate was a lovely black woman named Karen. Babies weren’t allowed in the mother’s room during visiting hours back then. Visitors had to look at the babies through a big window. Then, when visiting hours were over, the babies were returned to their mothers by female teenage volunteers. The first day of visiting, the poor girl returning babies was very confused when she got to our room. The girl looked at Karen, looked at me, looked at Eric, looked at the room number outside our door, then looked at Karen again. She cautiously began to wheel Eric towards Karen, but then realized Karen already had her baby. She looked at me again a fair-skinned redhead who blended in with her sheets, and then looked at this dark-skinned baby with jet black hair. Her expression was pleading for some understanding. I finally realized what was happening. I looked at her and said, “He’s mine”.
And so began my journey as the mother of three Asian children who did not look like me…at all.
Almost every time we left the house there were questions…
“How long did it take you to get them?”
“Nine months each. They’re mine.”
And then they validate you. “Oh! My sister’s friend’s grandson married a Vietnamese girl.”
“They’re beautiful! Where are they from?”
“Are you babysitting?”
“Yes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
I admit, there was a point when this started to get old. But then one day it happened. I went out all by myself. I never knew a trip to the dry cleaners could be so refreshing, so exhilarating! While there, waiting my turn, and basking in my temporary peaceful existence, I saw a blonde Caucasian woman with an adorable little Asian girl. I don’t know why, but I did it.
“Your daughter is adorable. Where is she from?” I asked.
The woman, ever-so-nicely replied, “Oh, she’s mine. My husband is Japanese.”
God has a wonderful sense of humor. Don’t you think? I thanked the woman and explained my embarrassment. We both laughed. It was then that I realized that people are curious and that’s okay.
A few years later, we went to Disney World and the tables were, somewhat, turned. Our children were 7, 5, and almost 3. It was an incredible trip planned by my incredible planning husband! Cliff had been there before, but for the kids and I it was all new and exciting! Our youngest daughter, Autumn, renamed Epcot, “Apricot” and it soon became one of our favorites.
One day, as we were walking around a store in the China Pavilion of “Apricot” I let the girls get out of the stroller to walk around. Autumn went with Cliff and Eric. Rachel, our 5 year old, stayed near me. She was absolutely mesmerized by the Chinese woman behind the counter. The woman was in full Chinese dress and was beautiful. Rachel, only six feet away from me, stared unashamedly.
I need to pause here for a brief explanation. Of our three children, Rachel is the “fairest of them all”. If she and I were alone together, people rarely asked if she was adopted. If she was with her siblings, it was obvious that she was one of them.
So, here she was openly staring and looking adorable in the process. The woman finished with her customer, looked down, and saw Rachel.
“You’re very beautiful. Are you Chinese?”
Rachel looked at me. I told the woman, “She’s half.”
Now, Disney workers are trained to ALWAYS be polite to park visitors, but this woman must have had a really bad day. She looked at me kind of disgusted and said, “How do you know?”
I smiled sweetly and replied, “I’m her mother.” The woman was embarrassed. I know it’s not right, but I was enjoying myself!
Years have passed and life has come full circle for us. Our children are grown and I’ve noticed that people are less surprised when I point out who my children are. But, when my children point out who their mother is, people are somewhat shocked. I guess it’s their turn. It’s kind of fun for me and, overall, it’s really not that big a deal!
The picture of the beautiful pagoda comes compliments of my brother, Paul. You can see and purchase this and all of his photography at his website ~ nuhorizondesign.com.