I was picking up a former college roommate from Midway Airport a couple of days ago, and because of the sudden thunderstorm, Monkey Man, Gorilla Girl and I had to wait longer than expected for her arrival. While we waited, Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl played an elaborate game of make-believe that involved the luggage carousels and Dora walkie talkies that had yet to be powered with batteries. They were screaming into the walkie talkies as they played so that everyone in a 25 foot radius heard the game. It was quite a circus.
During this event, a middle-aged man walked over to me and asked where Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl had been adopted. When strangers invade my privacy (and GG and MM’s privacy as well), I often wonder how I should respond. A few possible responses ran briefly through my mind before I answered: “When and where was your child conceived?” “What is your child’s ethnic background?”
I rejected those options (in part because this man was alone and he looked harmless enough), and answered simply,”They are from Vietnam.”
He responded enthusiastically with his own story of his son adopted from Vietnam and his daughter from China. He explained to me that he lives in Kalamazoo, runs a landscaping business, and is much more in favor of adoption than IVF (upon which apparently some of his friends have spent tens of thousands of dollars). It was a brief moment of mutual recognition and connection, as we talked of our kids’ personalities, schools, and our desire to re-visit Vietnam when the children are older.
I am glad that most of the time, I respond to questions about MM and GG with basic educational information, but every once in a while, I wonder why it is that conspicuous families are subjected to the whimsy (or ignorance) of strangers and why I should have to answer, for example, questions about how much the adoption cost. I don’t mind discussing many issues of adoption, and in fact, I want the discussion to flourish, but it should be on the terms decided by the families who live in adoption, not by strangers who are just curious.
However, had I not responded positively to this man, we would not have made this brief, yet important connection, in the impersonal atmosphere of the airport.