Well, I tried out the new line yesterday. It didn't go so well.
V and Adinah and I were walking down our street, in no particular hurry. I felt good.
About twenty-five feet behind me, V. had just decided she did not feel good, and was launching a mini-tantrum. Also behind us, a little old lady with shopping bags had just passed V. and Adinah, and was approaching me with that little smile people get when they want to make contact. She looked harmless enough.
When she got to me, she looked back at the girls, who were now assaulting a coin-operated rocking horse. The lady asked, in German, 'Where is their mother from?'
So I smiled a friendly but pointed smile back, like I was about to be frank with a good pal, and I said, "That's a very personal question."
The little old lady went off. Blustering, frowning, huffing.
"That's not a personal question," she cried. "That's a normal question!"
"Do we know each other?" I asked her.
"No, I saw the children and I thought they looked like they were from Africa!"
I started to ask her why she would ask me something like that, but she didn't let me finish. Tried to ask her to be more polite, but she didn't hear me. Blustering. And mad.
So I put up my hand and walked back to my kids. And Adinah, seeing the lady making a commotion, asked, "What's she saying, Papa?"
That's when I thought I might have been wrong. I'm so tired of people asking us about us, when it's just none of their business. It's probably harmless, she's probably a nice person, but really, I'm sure she would never ask any other total stranger the same question. And I wanted her to check herself. Maybe I thought, 'Now she'll think twice before asking another family a damn fool question.'
But maybe I was only thinking of myself, and that stranger, and not of my girls. Adinah could see something had happened, could see the lady was mad at me, and that may have frightened her, or made her feel bad. That's not right, either.
It's so hard to know what to do sometimes.