Sorry I missed your birthday, my cousin said. She’s the owner of the dancing school.
No big deal, I replied, it wasn’t an important number.
It’s coming soon, though, she said.
I have a few years to go, I said.
I had been sitting in the waiting room, next to a mom of three girls, with my daughter Cricket reclining on my lap, waiting for her to finish her lollipop. Cricket, not the mom. The mom was feeding her baby, not licking a lollipop.
You’re going to be forty? she asked.
50, I said. In a few years. I just turned 47.
She looked surprised that I was closer to 50 than 40, and I guess that should have been my take-away. And I should have quickly spirited Cricket away to the changing room. But the conversation continued. She knows Cricket’s 3, from a previous, benign conversation.
I could hear the math in her mind and knew what was going to come, yet I was powerless to stop it.
Mental blackboard math: 47 minus 3 equals 44. And then: You had her when you were 44? she asked rather surprised. I did some quick deciding, nodded and said, I’m 44 years older than her.
I thought about adding more, but the conversation ended abruptly when her oldest daughter ran to her with a ballet shoe crisis. So I just got up from the bench and carried Cricket to the changing room, feeling like a liar. But I did tell the truth, didn’t I?
I didn’t say:
Yes, I gave birth to her when I was 44. That would be totally misleading. Okay, that would be an out-and-out lie.
Maybe I’m guilty of a sin of omission.
I didn’t say:
We adopted Cricket when I was 44. That would be true. But from what I could gather, she was more amazed that I became a mom in my mid-forties - and not how I became a mom.
I generally don’t mind talking about adoption, and it rarely comes up. Ours was a domestic adoption, and Cricket is the spitting image of my husband and me. So we've never gotten the insane questions at the grocery store, like: were did you get her? Or You’re such a saint for saving her from a life of poverty. When we were newly home with her, I used to hear, Wow, you look great for just having had a baby! I’d usually say, Thank you so much! and walk away quickly.
But sometimes the conversation focused on how very tiny Cricket was, and I would reveal that she was born 12 weeks premature, weighing under 3 pounds. Inevitably, my dialogue partner had a friend or sister who also had a baby early and they would ask me where she was born. Still telling the absolute truth I would say the name of the far away state. Then: Oh! Were you traveling? Or Did you just move here? And then I would give up and tell them we adopted her. And then I would feel a set of eyes on my ovaries.
But sometimes I just don’t want to talk about adoption. Like when I’m sitting in the waiting room of a dance studio, with my tiny ballerina on my lap, savoring a lollipop like it was nectar from the Gods. Cricket, not me. I was making adoption conversation decisions, not licking a lollipop.
I still struggle with when and how much information to offer. When do I let my neighbors in and when are strangers trespassing?