It happened again.
It always seems to happen. So I imagine I must have a lesson to be learned. Or maybe I’ve learned my lesson and God is just giving me opportunities to practice. Or, maybe it has nothing to do with lessons to be learned and is just life being lived.
We took our kiddos to a fancy hotel for our annual Christmas present. It’s our way of getting out of the city without actually going anywhere but a 15 minute taxi ride away. (It’s also the kind of Christmas present that helps keep our home free of clutter and more toys) The kids get to play in the pool, I get to sit in a nice clean environment and have someone else make breakfast…sounds like a mom’s perfect Christmas present!
It was during my long awaited anticipated breakfast that it happened again. My space, the space that I really like was invaded again.
So, we’re all sitting at the hotel in the dining room next to the beautiful buffet. Jolie has her plate stacked high with bacon ’cause it’s too expensive for mom to pluck down the cash for it often and so she’s gonna get as much as she can while she can! (I know there is someone out there wanting to know how much it costs… it comes to about $9 a pound)
Isaac has three plates full of yummy western stuff sitting in front of him and I wonder where he will put it all, things like waffles and bacon await his fork and knife. My kids really like bacon.
I have a bowl of fresh chopped fruit, while Lily and Daniel are gobbling away at sausage and bowls of cereal. (I cringed when Daniel wouldn’t eat all of his cereal, it’s such a treasured treat for our family, a “cheap” box of cereal can cost us at least $4. I hated to send that bowl away untouched, but Peter wasn’t willing to put it in his pocket. It was dry, no milk, still he wouldn’t do it. I didn’t have any pockets.) 🙂
Peter has a doughnut looking thing that he says taste like nothing and puts it on the “don’t want plate” for the waiter to whisk away, let’s face it, China is not known for their doughnuts! It must really taste like nothing for Peter to throw it away. (His philosophy is food shouldn’t be thrown away; it has to spoil first!)
It’s during this wonderful family time of eating food we hardly ever get (well, I can get fruit whenever, but no one is going to wash, peal, and chop it for me, so, I’m in seventh heaven with already chopped fruit at my disposal!) when a lady walks over and stands directly behind Peter’s chair and watches us. Yup, just stands there staring at us.
I wonder, do I put my fork to my mouth or do I put it down, I’m at that halfway place and not sure what to do…there’s a piece of watermelon dangling from it and I really want to eat it!
She’s close enough to touch Peter’s chair.
It’s not unusual. It’s common. I remind myself that I need to smile and I need to acknowledge her instead of doing what comes natural to me (ignore). She begins by exclaiming how white we are, how cute our kids look and then asking “Are they all yours, all four of them?!”
I wanna eat my fresh fruit. I wanna, I wanna, I wanna…yada, yada, yada. Who cares what I want! I’ve learned my lesson from previous moments like this and so I draw her into our circle. I force myself to stop thinking about my fresh delicious fruit. I ignore my children’s stares for peace and I start talking to her in Chinese.
I won’t lie. It’s painful. The flesh is hard to kill. It hurts. But I answer her questions and when there is a pause, a long pause and it’s obvious she is not going to leave, I begin to slowly eat. She continues to fuss over my two younger ones, telling me how the milk in their cereal should be hot, not cold.
Imagine putting hot milk on cherrios!
She does say she knows it’s not our xí guàn 习惯 or “way of doing things or habit”. I don’t have the vocabulary to help her understand that it’s not just about our way of doing things, but that the cereal will turn into mush, and I’m not into eating mush or offering it to my kids. But then again, maybe it is about xí guàn…perhaps there are people out there eating mushy cherrios because they like it, it’s their xí guàn!
I doubt it though, surely there wouldn’t be, would there?! Mushy cherrio eating people?
After awhile, I give up on my breakfast and notice my kids are finished. I wanted a second of this and that from the breakfast buffet, but I decide to flee from the breakfast lady, take the kiddos back to the room. Away from the stares. The questions.
But, before I do that, I tell her I’ll meet her and her lonesome granddaughter at the pool. She’s visiting, she’s American/Chinese and lonesome. Hasn’t played with many English speaking kids since visiting grandma for the holidays. Mom and dad are in America. She cried when we left the pool. Poor thing.
I know how she feels. I miss my mom, dad and English speaking friends in America too.
The breakfast lady, she’s your typical Chinese grandma that is just thrilled to be so near a foreigner, most especially their children. She’s tickled that I can speak Chinese with her. My personal space survived and the little homesick granddaughter had an hour or two with some new friends.
I’ll get another breakfast buffet another time. Seriously, who cares about breakfast buffets that only come once a year for our annual Christmas present?
Rats. I do. But I guess I must have cared more about breakfast lady instead. Good, I’m living the better life because of it.