The scene played out something like this:
Mom & Ash sit quietly at the coffee shop enjoying coffee, juice, and a sinfully delicious piece of cinnamon coffee cake. A woman with three young children walks by (let's call her Scary Wavy Woman, SWW), proceeds to the counter to place her order, then walks by once more on her way to the door. But then she stops, turns around, and approaches Mom & Ash at their table.
SWW: "Hi. Um, I wanted to ask you, well, is your son adopted? I have an adopted daughter from China."
ME: "Yes, he was born in Ethiop..."
And this is where the scary waving began. Before my cheeks had time to form the last two syllables of the word Ethiopia I began feeling a strong wind brushing across my face. It was Scary Wavy Woman becoming disturbingly excited at the fact that I was having coffee with my adopted son from Ethiopia. Once she was able to catch her breath and the waving subsided (momentarily), she began to fill me in.
SWW: "Oh I'm SO GLAD you said Ethiopia! I have a friend who has had her heart set on adopting from China but her agency just told her that now "it's Ethiopia or nothin'" and she's heartbroken. But I really think she should adopt from Ethiopia, it's just as good as adopting from China and I've heard they're giving out referrals really quickly so she could have a kid in less than a year! Can I give her your phone number so that she can call you and talk to you?"
Meanwhile, Ash had proceeded to shove an entire half of his coffee cake into his mouth creating a solid syrupy coating on both cheeks topped with a squirt of apple juice in the eye, SWW doesn't seem to notice.
ME: "Well, I suppose so, although I know that Wide Horizons for Children is hosting an information meeting in town in June, perhaps she should consider attending that to learn more about the Ethiopia program?"
SWW: "Oh no, my friend lives in Oregon."
(We're having this conversation in a coffee shop in New York...)
ME: "???" (I don't remember exactly what I said next, but it must have been clear that I was a bit confused about why I was being recruited to talk to a stranger friend of a stranger woman who lives on the other side of the country about my adoption story in an effort to convince the stranger friend that adopting from Ethiopia is "just as good" as adopting from China.)
At this point SWW proceeds to search for a pen and paper so that she can give me her and her friends phone numbers and continues to fill me in on "the club" I apparently joined last year when arrived home with Ash.
SWW: "You know, you're a member of the club now. People will just walk up to you and start talking to you about adoption because it's so obvious he's adopted, it's the same way with us because our daughter is Chinese. Both my husband and I have been approached at least once a month for the 12 years we've had our daughter by people saying that they had intended to adopt but due to some excuse it never happened. They just keep making excuses."
ME: "Uh huh, (taking the piece of paper with the phone numbers on it) ok, it was nice meeting you."
And you would think it would have ended there, but she just kept coming back to our table, reminding me of her friend in Oregon who needs to be talked into adopting from Ethiopia because she adopted from China but that's not possible anymore and she thinks that adoption is something that everyone should consider. Eventually she made her way to and out the door, thrilled to have encountered another member of "the club". I on the other hand had some serious wet-wiping to do as Ash had smooshed most of the cinnamony crumbly topping over the remaining spaces of his face and was starting to have a hard time breathing because cinnamon flakes kept creeping into his nostrils.
Post wet-wiping and after dropping Ash off at daycare I continued to reflect on the moments of the morning. Was I being too sensitive or was SWW really that naive?
We (adoptive parents) all come to the decision of whether to adopt, where to adopt from, and various age, gender, and health preferences via our own avenues. Some have had their hearts set on international adoption since the beginning, and others have as well but just didn't know it until one day all of a sudden their heart was somewhere else, longing to be united with a child far away. These are just two samples of an array of personal experiences that lead families to pursue international adoption, but one uniting factor should always be love for a country and a culture. And that, my friends, is not something that you can (or should) be talked into over the phone by a complete stranger. And "the club" doesn't really sound like something I want to be a part of, I mean the whole perpetuating ignorance thing is kind of something I've always tried to steer clear from.
I'm not sharing this in an effort to exemplify me as a holier than thou adoptive parent who always does the right thing and gets her kicks by demonizing other less than perfect adoptive parents. Let me be the first to say that I'm (obviously) far from perfect, and Karma can be a real bitch so I tend to stay away from the whole demonizing thing. But, being recruited to talk a friend of a complete stranger into changing her heart from China to Ethiopia over the phone because a stranger noticed I was a white mother with a black son so what the hell, might as well ask if he's adopted because that's totally her business, well, me thinks that thought has one too many flaws. Yarr. Well, that and the fact that I'm pretty sure there are adoption agencies in Oregon who just might be better qualified to discuss this life altering in a zillion ways decision with her friend, in person, with follow up appointments. Double yarr.
So, I'm starting a new club. It's called the "I survived another loud public adoption inquisition with my son present and all I got was a lousy piece of cinnamon stuck up my nose."