Indian Carpet Maker

When Arlo switched schools late in September he and I went in blind; we missed both the opportunity to meet his teacher and tour his classroom.  Desperate to ease my tender child’s transition, I concocted several scenarios in which I might sneak in with him on his first day but somehow when the bell rang and the door opened, I instead asked the teacher if there was an older child who might act in my stead.

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Enter Deidre, a sixth-grader with a friendly smile, an incredible sense of style and a giant key chain collection.  Arlo took her hand that morning and every morning since.  Deidre changed my child’s life.  She took a moment to care for a smaller, vulnerable stranger and never stopped.  I adore her.

I told her as much with a small gift and thank you note one day.  Since she’s twelve I thought I’d better write her parents too.  Her mother, who lives in another city and maybe having never received the note, happened to be at pick-up one day so I introduced myself and shared with her my feelings.  “Gushed” is more appropriate.

Just then Deidre came bounding down the stairs.  I told her I just sang her praises to her mom.

Her mom laughed and said to Deidre, “‘Yes!  She’s going to adopt you and sell you to an Indian carpet maker!”

With a knife in my heart I touched this mother’s shoulder to make sure I had her attention.

“You know my husband is Indian, right?”  As is the baby in my arms.  My son whom your daughter cares for so genuinely.

I must have said it still smiling because she just smiled in return.  It didn’t register.

Did I not get it?  Was I overreacting?  Was this a thing?

I went home and googled “sell you to an Indian carpet maker”.

It didn’t register.

Deirdre is not her real name.  I won’t jeopardize our relationship with her or my child’s affection for her over one fleeting infraction by a visiting family member, but race is catching up with me and I’m trying to beat it before it nips at my children’s heels.

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5 thoughts on “Indian Carpet Maker

  1. WHAAAAA? What a crazy thing to say! If that is an expression I’ve never heard it. I’ve even stopped saying “Holy Cow” once I found out that was offensive. You know, I wonder if she did hear you. My reaction when I make an awful faux-paux sometimes is to laugh or just smile stupidly but inside I’m thinking “crap, how do I backtrack? Did that sound as bad as I thought it did? shit”. Hopefully she’ll at least think about what she said and what it could mean. but really? sheesh!

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  2. Ouch. First, I got teary about him taking Diedre’s hand. Because, you know, letting the little bird fly and all….but good lord, a punch in the stomach. Way to go for at least saying something to her, I’m sure I would have just stared agape at her, although it seems it didn’t register with her. Nothing like adding an extra bit of sour to morning drop-off.

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    • I surprised myself to be honest, but I think it was because I regard her daughter so highly that I wanted to be like Did you hear yourself? You didn’t mean that, right? And yes, especially because the exchange up to the point was so positive.

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  3. It was a poor choice on her part, but I would give her the benefit of the doubt.
    This is a really old, outdated expression/attempt at humor that basically means putting a child to work.
    It’s a reference to child slavery that was pretty commonly used in making inexpensive persian rugs in India and a few other countries in the far-east, before automation came along.
    My parents would say it when I was little, maybe 40 years ago when sending me off to someone’s house to help them out with yardwork, cleaning up, or to run errands for them etc…
    It wasn’t funny then, it’s not funny now and the subject sure isn’t funny either, which is probably why the phrase has pretty much fallen off the map.
    From your description of her reaction, it either didn’t register, or she was too embarrassed by her gaffe to apologize.
    If she keeps making racist comments that’s another story, but for now I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

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