After numerous failed attempts to write about a conversation I recently had with my mother-in-law, I decided to simply share the dialogue with you, for I still can’t put my thoughts about the conversation into coherent words. So I’ll let it speak for itself.
Scene: My husband and I are on a week-long trip to the UAE. He’s at work. I’m having lunch, pool-side, with my mother-in-law. We talk about her recent travels to Southeast Asia, my writing, and my work — including Gazillion Voices – which makes her think of her goddaughter, a Chinese adoptee who is, from what I can tell, between five and eight years old.
She says: “I’m just so thankful she’s a part of our lives. They [adoptive parents] don’t know anything about her [birth] parents, but they’re sure they were poor.” Her eyes get misty. “When I think about what could have happened to her if she’d stayed in China…” Her voice trails off (think Lifetime Original). “Child prostitution and all that.” I vomit in my mouth. “And you know what?” She lowers her voice. “They’re not even sure she’s really Chinese! And she doesn’t look Chinese to me. It’s in her eyes.”
I have to ask: “Why would they think that? I thought you said they don’t know anything about her birth parents.”
“Oh, they don’t,” she said. “But you know… a young girl abandoned at some dirty orphanage… and you just look at her and wonder ‘Who are you? Where did you come from?’ and you start to see in her face… the orphanage workers, they didn’t even think she was Chinese.”
I say, “Oh, well then, that says it all.”
“Yeah, exactly,” she says. She didn’t catch the snark in my voice. “You figure they know what their own people look like. How about you? Are you still trying to find your birth mother?”
I say yes, but that it’s quite difficult to make any headway without actually going to Korea.
“Oh,” she says. “Well, you have plenty of time. What’s the rush, right? You have a good life here.” She checks her watch. “Should we get the check?”
Yeah, that happened. Tell me: What kinds of sh*t do your in-laws say?