Sunday, December 8, 2013

Extended Family

This fall I read a blog post by John Bocskay that a friend had shared on Facebook.  It was about how you can choose your family but not your friends.  If you're thinking this is one of those times where I purposely and also idiotically screw up an idiom to be funny, you're actually wrong.  Not only because it wasn't me changing the idiom, but because it's not idiotic in this case: if you've lived overseas, you know that you don't always get to choose with whom you will be friends.  The longer I've been doing this, the more choosy I get about who I will hang out with, and luckily I've managed to land places for a while now that had enough of a pool of foreigners to allow this luxury.  I also get what he's saying about choosing your family, but ever since I first read his post, I've been thinking about it from another angle.
See, living overseas has seen me "adopting" a lot of family members.  It's not like this is a new thing; my high school friend's mom was kind of the original adopted family member, and I even mentioned my adopted Cuban-Saudi daughter about a month ago.  Lately (ie, in my last two contracts) it's gotten a little out of control, though.  Before it was always kind of a private joke - now the whole school gets involved.  It started with my new sister.  When I was working in Shanghai, our students were constantly mixing JoAnn and I up, and somewhere along the way one of them came up with the idea that we were sisters...we look alike, don't we?  To their credit, we were together a lot - A LOT - and we are both fun specialist teachers, and tall.  To our discredit, we totally ran with it, because it was just too much fun not to.
This time around, here in Mongolia, it is probably my fault.  I was not very creative last Halloween, and I put on some frumpy clothes and a (really rubbish) British accent, made myself a magic wand out of construction paper, and told the kids I was Mrs. Weasley.  And asked them if they'd seen my son, Ron.  And it worked, because I just so happened to have a really wonderful 6th grade student with ginger hair, and since he has such an AMAZING sense of humor, and friends who felt like playing along, we totally ran with it, the point where his classmates - my students - were completely confused.
It didn't help any that the 8th graders - completely independently - came to the conclusion that since his older brother and I had the same sense of humor, he must be my son (they also decided that I was fighting to the death with Geek and last year's math teacher for the affections of the science teacher, but we'll ignore that one.  Kids!)  He was in my homeroom class, and I was a little worried that their actual parents would think this was totally weird and inappropriate, so I was relieved when their mom walked into my classroom for conferences last fall and made a joke about me being their "other mother."  They grow up so fast!  My older "son" is a freshman now, and doesn't find as much humor in it, but "Ron" still says, "Hi, Mom," when he sees me in the halls, and his little sister even joined in when I saw them leaving the school several weeks back.

Why do I keep this going, besides the obvious reason that it cracks me up?  Because these people are awesome.  Don't get me wrong, I love my actual sister to death, and wouldn't trade her for the world.  And if I ever get around to having kids in the distant future, they have at least a 50% chance of being totally kickass, because, let's face it, I am.  But by virtue of living in these places together, sharing this experience, there's something that bonds us together that I love, something above the fact that it's flattering that JoAnn is smart, talented, and a helluva looker, or that my boys are bright and funny (and will someday be sarcastic, if they keep at it), that makes me feel honored that people might think we're related.

Honestly, it's probably down to the fact that all us white folk look alike, but hell, I'll take it anyways.


  1. That's so cute. Now you have to stay another year...for the kids!

  2. I enjoyed the post. Thanks for the shout out!

  3. I thought that I was his real mother. :) I guess I don't have red hair.

    1. He caught me telling his elder brother - Charlie, let's call him, in keeping with the Weasley theme - that he was my favorite son a few weeks back, and I used the fact that he disowned me in favor of you as my excuse. The fact that "Charlie" was bringing me brownies to share with the yearbook staff didn't hurt, either.