Last week, my mom, my brother and I sat down to a sushi dinner. As per (well, mostly) always, amma rattled off engagement, wedding and birth announcements with the brevity of a newspaper. Then, more sweetly than dramatically, she sighed and told us that she often wondered how long it would be before she and my dad would have grandchildren of their own.
My brother, who has mastered the art of deflecting all marriage/procreation talks with witticism, assured her that he could take care of that; all he needed from the 'rents were the number of grandchildren they'd like and if they preferred biracial or Pakistani babies. I chided him for teasing amma and told him that this was not the time for silliness.
"Amma, I've asked you to keep these family blind dates coming. People have met in stranger ways..." I told her.
I threw in the but before she could express her delight.
"...but, you have to realize that I'm not going to NOT have children simply because I couldn't find Mr. Right..."
My brother nodded in mock support. I was half serious.
Her eyes and mouth became perfect Os almost as soon as she demanded to know how I planned on doing that.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," my mother tsk'd before I could respond (no one, by the way, tsks better than the South Asian mother). Saying such things was hardly appropriate, she told us.
"More and more women are doing it, amma. Having and raising babies on their own. I think I read somewhere that more women are doing that than actually getting married." I'd read no such thing. "Why should we deny ourselves the joys of motherhood, the MIRACLE of bringing life into this world just because we're not married?"
Amma's face was trapped somewhere between amusement and fear.
My brother was still nodding. He thought he'd read that article as well, he added.
Nice, Muslim girls didn't go and have babies without getting married first, Amma countered. It didn't matter what varieties of sins other women were committing.
"BUT AMMA! It's so easy. You just go to a lab..."
She let out an "uff!," another exclamation perfected by the South Asian mothers. This was followed by the "thoba, thoba." Still, I think she was just a little relieved to realize that it was artificial insemination about which I was talking.
"...AND I can choose a donor based on MY specifications. Like he can be a 6-ft tall, blonde Harvard Law grad with a genius IQ and an affinity for the outdoors..."
She wanted me to know that both me and my child would be disowned if I ever did something like...like THAT.
"How could you do that to your own grandchild, amma?! Your grandchild!"
The baby would be a stranger to her.
"How could your flesh and blood, your family be a stranger amma! YOUR GRANDCHILD. Don't disown her, don't disown sweet, little Amelie. She needs her family!"
Amelie?! my brother asked, nearly spitting out his sushi.
"I can name her whatever I like. I love that movie. It was effin' awesome."
My mother didn't care. She didn't want to see my or Amelie's faces again!
"But she'll have a gorgeous face. I'll make sure to pick a hot donor! Plus I'm going to see that her father's a genius. I'm talking MENSA amma. Amelie's going to be a gorgeous genius baby."
We'd never joke around so vulgarly had we been raised in Pakistan.
My brother suggested that perhaps amma and abu could babysit while I was working, and shrugged a "Whaaat? It's a good idea," when amma glared him down.
"Poor Amelie," I sighed.
Could we change this ridiculous subject Amma wanted to know. She'd much rather talk about the weather.