I’ve already introduced you to Rachel. Remember those “Little White Cotton Socks”? If not, you can read about them and their sad ending here. As previously noted, Rach was that child. The one your Mom blesses you with by declaring, “I hope you get a kid just like you!” I did. Rach is it.
Had she been born a Native American, her name would have, undoubtedly, been “She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Ignored.” Since she was born of a Chinese-American father and an Italian-Irish American mother, her name was Rachel. She was a very tiny, very busy little girl with a huge vocabulary and a mouth to match. At 18 months old she could carry a complete conversation with anyone. At 22 months her vocabulary and complete lack of inhibition made her a force to be reckoned with. Though there are many “Rachel Stories” in our family, one in particular is outstanding. It was a plane ride, one that we will never forget, one that she does not remember. She was 22 months old and firmly believed that the entire world was made to converse with her.
It was a business trip. Our family, at the time, consisted of my husband Cliff, our 3 year old son Eric, Rachel, and me. Our youngest child, Autumn, was also there, but we didn’t know it yet. To give you a visual, here is a picture of Eric and Rachel on our trip.
We had flown as a family from New Jersey to Los Angeles for my husband’s business trip, and decided to take a side trip to San Francisco to visit close family friends.
Los Angeles to San Francisco is a predominantly Asian-infused flight and I knew what to expect. The older Chinese would look at my husband, smile at our children, and give me a dour look as though I’d slid through a crack in their Great Wall and kidnapped one of their native sons. They sat us in the front of the plane. Eric was near the window, Cliff and his newspaper were in the center, and I was on the aisle with Rachel perched on my lap.
She greeted each and every passenger.
“Hello Lady! Hello Man!” Rachel knew no strangers. She was having a wonderful time and everyone thought she was adorable. Well, almost everyone. There he was, an older Chinese gentleman. As he passed us, he looked at Eric, he looked at Cliff, he gave me that dour look, and he ignored Rachel’s greeting of “Hello Man!”. Little did he know the horrible mistake he had made.
As the plane took off, Rachel was content. She played with some toys I’d packed for her, then spoke with a young Chinese man seated across the aisle. When that got boring, she stood on my lap and peeked over our seat at the two women seated behind us and talked to them. All was going well and then she saw him.
He was seated on the aisle, four seats back and to the left. She called to him. “Man, Hello Man!” No response. She called a little louder. “Hello Man!” He ignored her. I pulled her down and distracted her with her toys. She played, spoke to the man across from us, visited with the ladies behind us, and called again in her sweetest voice. “M-a-n, H-e-l-l-o M-a-n!” I glanced back. The man had turned his head away and pretended to be looking out his window. I pulled her down again.
Rachel continued her little orbit for awhile, the toys, the man across the aisle, the ladies behind, always ending with the patient harassment of the older Chinese gentleman. Finally, she’d had enough. At the end of one of her many orbits, in her loudest voice, she yelled. “MAN, I’m talkin’ to YOU, Man!” And then it happened. The man smiled and waved to her! “Hello Man…” she repeated. And with a big smile on her face, she turned and sat contentedly on my lap and didn’t bother the older Chinese man again. Everyone within earshot, which was most of the plane, had stifled their laughter, but couldn’t hide their smiles. This little sprite of a girl had won. She had broken down cultural barriers because she would not be ignored.
As he left the plane, the old Chinese gentleman stopped at our seats, smiled, and took Rachel’s little hand in his. She smiled back, shook his hand, and greeted him for the last time. “Hello Man.”
It was a very big deal.