Today after preschool a mom I haven’t seen before is putting her son into her car. She greets Clara effusively as we walk by on the sidewalk: “Oh, hello, sweetheart! I had so much fun talking with your grandma last week!”
I look quizzically at the woman. “Actually,” I say, “Clara’s grandma hasn’t been at preschool for several months.”
I know exactly what’s going on, but this woman doesn’t, yet.
She looks surprised. “But … umm … ” she says, and stops. She’s finally starting to realize that she’s confused Clara with another black girl at the preschool, and now she’s getting embarrassed.
A couple of years ago I might have stepped in and saved her from herself. “Oh, you’ve probably mistaken her for Hana,” I would have said. “It happens.” But this time I don’t. For one thing, Hana looks nothing like Clara. Different hair, different skin color, wildly different facial features and eyes. Hana is Ethiopian, Clara African-American. The only thing Clara and Hana have in common is that their parents are white. I figure if this woman is embarrassed, well, she brought it on herself. Maybe she’ll learn to pay better attention next time.
But I’m not cruel. After letting her squirm for a few moments I introduce us. Clara shows an interest in her car (a Toyota Corolla) so the mom lets Clara investigate, and starts asking her questions, and we’re back on normal parent-kid ground finally.
“Your car smells kind of funny,” Clara says. “It smells like Greta’s car. Like old bananas.”