January 21, 2009

The Evening of My Embarrassment

One evening last week I got to thinking about the inauguration and how I'd be working at home alone with no one but Twitter to share the happy moment. Woe is me. So I impulsively invited bunches of people over for dinner and a re-watch of the ceremony.

People responded and it was all quite exciting. I knew Puppy wouldn't remember watching the ceremony but he just might remember a party a tiny bit. We decided it fit in well with Operation Get Our (Local White) Friends to Acknowledge Race* we've got going on. To be as obnoxious as possible we made ribs and biscuits and greens and beans and macaroni and sweet potato pie and pandowdy. The night's mission: be introduced to collard greens and watch a biracial man assume the highest office in the the land. Discuss!

It was all going swimmingly until T mentioned--as we were setting the table--that he told his principal about the party and that she might stop by. Oh, dear. Throwing together dinner for your friends on a weekday evening is one thing. Cooking for your boss is quite another.

For this story to make sense, you also need to know that T's boss is African-American and has had a lot to say about our transracial adoption. And now she was coming to eat soul food made by little white me.

Just when I had talked myself into the fact that she's a huge fan of T and it would all be fine, she called to say she was on her way and she was bringing along the pastor of the black church we've been visiting. This is a man who has someone standing by to hand him a towel and water when he preaches and all we had were the sad leftovers of a buffet to offer up. Not really how I would have wanted our first sit-down with him to go.

It was the very tail end of the party when they arrived and most everyone else had left, so we sat down to chat with the two of them while they ate. They are hugely influential people in the church community we've been getting to know, not to mention in T's professional life, so I was already all kinds of self-conscious. (When I can't do my fretting well in advance, it just all comes out in one big burst of nervousness.) Then the pastor squinted appraising-ly at Firefly, who was rocking quite the head of post-nap fuzz. He turned to me and said, "Why isn't that girl's hair in ponytails yet?" As we stammered some sort of answer, he moved on to quizzing me about how we're conditioning it. And I just wanted to crawl under the table and hide.

Then T's boss went into our messy post-party kitchen and started doing the dishes and my head exploded.

But she did compliment my greens and ask me where in the world I learned to cook this kind of food so well (thank you, women at our old church!).

And the rest of the party was just what I wanted. We watched the inauguration and hugged our kids and smiled some teary smiles. And I went to bed for the first time in a whole lot of years feeling like I mostly trusted the people in power.

So, all in all, it was a good evening.

* Our friends are wonderful people. It's just that pretending to be "color-blind" is the most popular approach to race where we currently live.


Anonymous said...

That doesn't seem like a very nice thing to say about Firefly's hair. I guess everyone has to get their two cents in about parenting. I'm sorry you had to feel nervous in your own home. You are obviously a wonderful mother and I’m sure Firefly will always be well cared for and loved and have gorgeous hair because you guys are so devoted to doing what’s best for her. The party also sounds fun – what a great idea!

Anonymous said...

I think that was a rude -- or at least rudely phrased -- thing for the pastor to say. If he wants to offer helpful advice, there are certainly better ways of doing it, especially when he's a guest in your home.

Maybe I'm too touchy, but that would have REALLY rubbed me the wrong way. I don't care how "influential" people are; it doesn't excuse rudeness.

However: I'm glad that everything else went really well! I need to go find out what the heck "pandowdy" is...

Anonymous said...

I think it's coming off ruder in print than it did in person. It was more like when you take a baby outside in winter and the old ladies cluck at you to wrap another blanket around them. Only here there was the cultural overlay.

Anonymous said...

@Kendra - Pandowdy is awesome and once you try it you'll never make apple cobbler again. The top is pie crust and you spoon the juices over the top halfway through baking so that it gets all crusty and tasty. This isn't the recipe I used, but it's similar.

Anonymous said...

When people comment about my daughter's hair (she was also transracially adopted), I feel glad. Glad that they are interested in a little girl who had no one to love her for a long time. Glad they want to help.

Heather, sounds like a lovely night. Boss doing dishes? God bless her. You must be living right to engender such good will!

Anonymous said...

@Spring - It's true, I am glad when these kinds of exchanges occur. I read them as a sign of love for and, in a way, solidarity with Firefly. We've gotten such good advice from AA friends who want to make sure we have the tools we need to care for her. And I hope that in some small way it's because T and I are trying to put ourselves out there in a posture of learning. I was just so embarrassed that this was the first extended conversation we've had with him and Firefly was sitting there looking like we've never run a comb through her hair. You feel like you're every stereotype of the white adoptive parent of a black baby rolled into one.

And we do need to figure out what to do w/her hair; she lost most of it as a newborn and now 1/3 of it is long enough that it really needs to be twisted or braided and the other 2/3 isn't even 1" long. We probably should cut it all even but I can't bring myself to cut off the long parts--they were all she had for awhile!

Guera! said...

This actually sounds like a delightful evening. I have been so bitter over Barack Obama becoming president that I now realize I am forgetting to let myself rxperience joy in this amazing moment in history and acknowledge the long overdue joy of many others for whom this is a monumentous, timeless moment. I at least had the good sense to watch the inauguration so I could tell my children that I did even if my heart wasn't in it. I think I would have loved to have been a part of the celebration at your house and am glad to have read your post tonight. I also thought the comment about Firefly's hair was priceless.

Dawn said...

I think it's wonderful and brave that you're building this community now. I have such admiration for you because yeah, I'd have had stage fright for DAYS. Brava!!!

Rebeccah said...

Ohboy. Now I'm stressing out about soul food. Sigh. Pandowdy looks totally yummy (and achievable!)

The hair thing I *totally* get. One of the Mister's dog park friends (a white woman) turns out to have African-American kids and grandkids, and she's volunteered to help us with the hair products. I can't explain how much that meant to me (since, as you know, I also live in the land of "let's pretend race isn't an issue") ...

cindy psbm said...

Oh my goodness, when it rains, it pours, right?
Maybe its a blessing that this was all happenstance, sort of.
As for the comment on hair, I would take it with a grain of salt.
I am sure they mean well.
Anyways, times of 'embarrassment' make for really good stories.
Life would be boring if we were all perfect all the time.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it sounds like you did just fine, Heather. What a great thing to do anyways, host such a party and introduce your friends to your world. :D

Anonymous said...

I think it's better to have the boss and the pastor show up unexpectedly--that saved you from stressing out for days and having to do silly things like take a toothbrush to the grout behind the toilet! ;) It sounds like a great party.

I had an African girl stay with me for a while, and that poor girl's hair rarely looked good during that time! It is such a sign of maternal care, but I'm sure the pastor wasn't accusing you of anything, just trying to clue you in. Maybe?

melissa said...

What a fun idea! I love the food and bringing the neighborhood over to watch the inauguration. I agree that is better they came unexpected or you would have been so stressed before hand. It sounds like everything went really well.
I love Pan Dowdy!

luna said...

oh wow. funny, I had mixed reactions to the pastor's comment that were covered in the comments above -- i.e., on one hand, how intrusive to question your care, but on the other, how sweet that he wants to support and help.

in any case, I think it's awesome that you are doing some community building around firefly's heritage and subtle education for your friends and neighbors too.

what an amazing day, and sounds like a wonderful night (which you didn't even tweet about!)

Momo Fali said...

I didn't think it was horribly rude, though that's coming from someone who frequently puts her foot in her mouth so maybe his comment seemed mild compared to my own mistakes.

Also, I never complain when someone else does the dishes!

Andromeda Jazmon said...

It sounds like a very successful evening. I think the hair comments and helping with the dishes both show a certain respect and community spirit toward your family. What great allies to have! And I admire your courage and spunk. I would have thought about throwing a party but be too shy to do it.

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...