Just last week, when Cara was visiting, we were talking about the ever-curious question, How many children do you have? I was musing about how depending on the context, or the person, or how detailed I thought I could get at that moment, or how long I planned to be in the conversation, my answer varied.
"For example," I said to her, "If I'm talking to a stranger in the locker room, and I'm almost dressed, and I know I'm not going to really get to know this person in any great depth, sometimes I'll use this stock phrase that I have which is, 'I have two children at home with me'. This doesn't discount Charlotte, but it also doesn't force me into a longer conversation that I'm not prepared to have."
Such a simple question to her, practically the simplest. To me, the most complicated. I was already brushing my hair, the kids were downstairs in the child watch waiting for me.
"I have two with me at home, " I said, shaking the water out of my brush.
In five years nobody has ever asked me that. Not one, single person has ever noticed the unusal phrasing of that stock answer, and I was delighted to provide her with an answer, of course. When I told her about Charlotte, she apologized for having asked, and I reassured her that I was quite happy to talk about her, and about it, but that I didn't always bring her up immediately just because of my concern that "some people" just can't handle it. I phrased this to indicate that she was clearly not in that category, and indeed she did follow up with a number of questions, allowing me to speak loudly and clearly so that everyone else in the locker room also probably got to hear the summarized version of what could basically be called my life story (you could call Charlotte's birth and death a defining moment, above any other moment in my life!). I followed her to the blow dryers, although I hadn't planned to dry my hair, and dried it a little just so that I could keep on talking, and so that I could bask in the beauty of this rare specimen who just kept on firing the questions. My coat went on very slowly (although I planned to stay at the Y for some time longer) and my shoes were ever so carefully tied while we talked, while I was outed as the mother that I truly am, feeling almost shameful for having attempted to avoid the issue.