Thursday, April 21, 2011
Our routine rarely varies. Kurt and the boys sit together. Mikias has the window. Jemberu is in the middle and Kurt is on the aisle. I am also on the aisle right across and slightly behind them. Kurt works. The boys play. I nap. I was resting my eyes as I listened to the flight attendant go over the safety procedures. Floatation devices, exits, oxygen masks. We were about 10 rows from the front. Being the first day of April vacation the plane was full of families with school aged children. I listened as the flight attendant spoke to all of the parents in the rows in front of us.
"Be sure you place your oxygen mask on and then help your children with theirs"
"Be sure you place your oxygen mask on first and then help your kids, okay?"
Row after row.
Then she got to Kurt and the boys. I snapped out of my almost sleep when I realized that she didn't address Kurt as she had all the other parents in front of us.
She leaned over Kurt and spoke directly to the boys. "Okay guys, where does this go?" she said as she held up the oxygen mask.
"Over your mouth and nose!" Mikias loves answering questions. Jemberu, on the other hand, twisted around in his seat to make eye contact with me. He rolled his eyes and jerked his thumb toward the flight attendant. His look told me that he didn't think she was too bright.
She continued, "Great! Now what about this?" She stretched the elastic on the mask.
Mikias had this one too. "You stretch it around your head to secure the mask to your face!"
At this point, Kurt is giving her a look that could make a flower die on it's vine. Jemberu is looking at me with his mouth hanging open and his arms in the 'are you kidding me?' gesture. I said to him "She doesn't realize that you are sitting with your dad." Mikias is beaming at her. He'd be happy to answer her easy questions all day. Kurt, Jem and I were all thinking something along the lines of 'there is something wrong with this woman'. Not Mikias. He is a bit of an oddity in our sarcastic, slightly cynical family. He thinks everyone is nice and worth giving the benefit of the doubt.
The flight attendant was oblivious to our family's verbal and non verbal communication. In fact, she was oblivious to the fact that we were a family. She smiled at the boys and said, "If these oxygen masks come down, you put them on and then look for one of us. Do not take them off until we tell you, okay?"
Later when it was time to pass out the snacks, she leaned over my husband again and sweetly asked the boys if they'd like some crackers and peanuts. She handed Kurt his snack without even a glance. She then asked the boys if they were doing okay and if they needed anything else. "If you need anything at all, you just let us know, okay boys?" She did not say anything like this to the children seated all around us.
This flight attendant was a whole new kind of weird for me. She didn't even entertain the possibility that these boys were sitting with their dad. Often people ask if we are the boys' parents. That makes sense. She didn't make any sense to me. Surely we were not the first transracial family she has seen. Wouldn't she know if there were children this young traveling alone? Did she think the boys were stuck sitting with this white guy while their black mom and dad were sitting in another part of the plane? What would make her see that they were together? What if they were all wearing matching shirts? Or hats? Kurt has a baseball cap that says 'Big Dude' and the boys have matching hats only they say 'Little Dude'. (I don't think I have to tell you they were a gift.) What if they were wearing those? My guess is that it wouldn't have changed anything. She probably would have just thought it was a crazy coincidence.