As we passed an ice cream place the other day, the reader in our crew happened to notice the sign that advertised free samples of the flavor of the month. Oh sure, why not, I thought.
We went in and requested some. The woman behind the counter did not seem to understand; she seemed to be trying to tell me that they did not have the flavor of the month but I could clearly see it in the cooler. I just pointed and said "that one."
She gave me one sample and then walked away to attend to another customer.
I am a pretty reasonable person and at that point, I figured it really wasn't worth it to try to get two more free samples for the other two kids. Unfortunately, they had pretty strong feelings about the whole thing and how fair it was and all that sort of thing. I could tell they were not likely to let it go.
When the woman came back, I tried to ask for two more, but instead she started making a milkshake.
"Uh, is that for us?" I asked. "We don't want anything, thank you." She just smiled and kept making it.
I figured that the universal sign for "no" in any language is to wave energetically and shake my head over and over again. "No shake, no. No, nothing, no. Just two little tastes (I pinched my fingers together to indicate "tiny bit" and pointed down into the cooler again). Tiny. This." (and then I pointed again).
She just looked at me blankly and then she finally kind of got it. She reached down and picked out one more sample of ice cream (not the flavor of the month, but whatever) and I decided we should probably just go. This communicating with hands and monosyllables thing wasn't working out very well.
On my way out the door, I happened to overhear her speaking with her colleague to try to understand what on earth I had been after. At the same moment, I also happened to glance at her nametag: Rabia. And she was speaking Arabic. Moroccan Arabic.
So here I am in a city of millions of immigrants and migrants and folks from every corner of the world and I land on one language I happen to sort of know, and in the very dialect I can actually speak (kind of), and I completely miss it. And then one kid cried most of the way home because she didn't get any ice cream. Good one, mom.
A. got a haircut the other day. It is really cute and I hope to post some photos soon. She was so proud sitting up on the chair at the salon and kept very still and the woman was taking care to do a very good job. So L. and BR and I tried to entertain ourselves in the meantime, and not roll around in the cut hair on the floor too much, and not put our sticky lollipop fingers into the hair on the floor and all the sort of thing. You know, the usual.
The other hairdresser ran out of customers and had a chance to watch us (=stare) for a really long time. Finally, she caught my eye: "Are they all three yours?" (Oh, boy, this again.) Usually when people ask this, it's just a prelude to telling me I'm too young for so many offspring, or maybe because they want to find out what the age difference between them. So boring.
But I was brave AND polite (a rare moment), and I just smiled. "Yup. All of them."
"But they don't look a thing like you!" She seemed genuinely confounded, and I was relieved to be talking about something other than our respective ages.
"Well, no, they look more like my husband. They actually look very much like him."
"But, but...they really look nothing like you."
"Uh, right. She has blue eyes, and blond hair. But my sister also was blond with blue eyes at this age. And they didn't even get the curly hair, either, did they?"
"What?! YOU have a sister who is BLOND? But, but--how? You are--you are not--" and then she indicated my skin. "Is your husband from the same background as you?"
Apparently, she thought I was of a different race and could not figure out how I had produced these white children!
This doesn't happen very often. In fact, I did not remember that it ever had before, but Jerah reminded me of a time in Chicago when a UPS guy came by with a delivery that I had to sign for. He was surprised to see me sign my last name: "That's you? But that's a white name!"