We have a standard way of celebrating our boys’ “Gotcha Day” anniversaries. We carry in won ton soup, steamed dumplings, and chicken lo mein.
Last night, however, traffic on our commute home was terrible. And the boys were starving. So, instead, we gathered at a somewhat formal Chinese restaurant we have never tried as a family.
As a transracial family, we can be a bit conspicuous, so we get some second glances. Entering the Chinese restaurant last night with our two boys, however, we became instant celebrities.
Within moments we had five or six smiling restaurant staff members, all of Chinese descent, gathered around, murmuring about how beautiful our sons were. Then the questions started.
“Are they twins?” asked one woman.
“No, but they’re brothers,” said John with a big smile. It’s hard to believe anyone could look at our boys, designed so differently and so wonderfully by God, and think they are twins. But it’s not the first time we’ve fielded that one.
“You’re so lucky,” said another lady, beaming down at our boys, who were digging into the fried noodles and sauces on the table. “Two boys!”
“Yes,” I said, smiling back at her. “We are very lucky.”
Then the lady said to us, “They look like you!”
She pointed to Daniel and said, “He looks like you,” and pointed to my husband. Then she pointed to Leo and said, “and he looks just like you!” and pointed to me. And the waitress standing with her smiled and nodded in agreement.
Wow. That one threw me for a loop.
“Well…” I said, a bit taken aback.
I looked at Leo’s jet-black hair and my hair, light brown with more than a little gray. I glanced at Daniel’s deep brown eyes—magnetically drawn to the duck sauce—and John’s hazel eyes, watching to make sure Daniel didn’t knock a water glass off the table in his haste to get the sauce to his lips.
I glanced at the boys’ healthy summer tans and their parents’ pale Irish-German skin.
Then I noticed John’s smile and Daniel’s, and how they were leaning toward each other. And I decided the waiters were either finding a physical connection where I didn’t see one, or that they were trying to offer a compliment.
Saying thank you seemed silly because it doesn’t matter to us whether our boys look like us—or anyone else.
But I wanted to say the right thing to these kind-hearted people who had welcomed us so graciously into their restaurant—and who so obviously admired our boys. The truth is that when we were in China, we heard a similar comment about Daniel looking like us. So maybe I am just short-sighted, or maybe it’s a cultural difference and it’s meant as a compliment.
Or maybe, just maybe, they were trying to say that as they watched the four of us interact, it was obvious that we are a family.
Whatever they meant, I felt I had to respond.
“Well,” I said finally, “I guess that’s just how it happened to work out.”
Then Leo decided to dip a fried noodle into a bowl of hot mustard. Immediately, one of the ladies stopped him. “Oh, no!” she said. “That is too spicy! Very, very spicy!”
And suddenly I was back in China—a country where complete strangers approach you to fuss over your children, pulling the boys’ pant legs down over their ankles or offering them candy or a Mandarin orange.
What an appropriate way to celebrate our anniversary of meeting Daniel in China, I thought.
We get stuck in terrible traffic—although it was still nothing like driving through Beijing.
We find ourselves dining in a white-tablecloth restaurant when it would be so much more convenient to feed our children at home.
And the kind members of the wait staff are making sure our boys don’t burn their tongues on spicy food.
Leo took a good look at the spicy mustard on his fried noodle. Then he looked at his audience and grinned. “It’s hotter than a Hunan pepper!” he announced—and the waitresses gasped in delight.
“Now, how does he know that?” one of them asked, watching Leo hand the food to his father to eat.
Well, that’s our boy who was born in Hunan Province.
And, you know, some days this world feels really small.