Many years ago when flying home from a work trip, I found myself sitting next to a young boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old. In my thirties and adrift in San Francisco, I had very little exposure to children of any age, and while that infernal clock was pushing me towards pregnancy and birth, I had no interest in becoming a mother. I heard you loved your own, thank god – I was counting on that – but as to other people’s children . . . not my thing. So I buried my head in my magazine and assumed my young seat-mate would do the same in his Nintendo DS or GameBoy or Xstation or whatever gadget he had. *insert curmudgeonly shrug* Before leaving the gate however, this kid started up with me:
“What is your name?”
“Lisa. What’s yours?”
“Kaher. Do you drink beer?”
“I will not drink beer.”
“Oh … well…”
“Drinking beer is bad.”
“Do you have a husband?”
“No, I have a boyfriend.”
“You should get married.”
“I will get married.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because you’re SUPPOSED to get married and have children.” He rolls his eyes.
I looked away and smiled. I couldn’t help myself what with his rapid-fire curiosity and simultaneous dissing of my lifestyle choices. It was sort of charming. He was very serious about his interview though, and I, admittedly, was flattered to be his subject. I put my magazine down and gave him my full attention. Just then the flight attendant came through and asked for our drink orders. Kaher ordered for himself and then for his father who sat silently across the aisle. Then his interrogation continued, peppered with tips on how to master this game he was playing. Not that he let me play it – oh no no – but he insisted I watch as he showed me how to race the car through all these checkpoints and the faster you drove the more money you’d collect. The money part was important, so of course . . .
“You’re not married so you must work. How much money do you make?”
“Jeez kid – I make enough money to pay my bills and drink some beer.”
“When I have a job I’m gonna make A LOT of money.”
“What do you need so much money for?”
Rolling his eyes, “To buy cars! To buy houses! To get a wife!”
The beverage cart finally made its way to our row and before claiming his own, Kaher stretched across the aisle and opened his father’s soda. I saw then that his father was paralyzed on one side of his body. I suddenly realized Kaher was his father’s voice and hands. I looked down at this child and I saw a young man. A man as true as the boy was curious. A man as brave as the boy was outspoken. A man as kind as the boy was charming. And for the first time in my life, awash in pride and wonder over this child I just met, I saw myself as a mother and I wanted it very, very much.
† Edited for Listen To Your Mother, May, 2014