I scan the bunch of parents standing by the park at the school. The twins run headfirst into the clutch of children by the slide and are lost in them. I edge closer to a couple who smile and wave. We introduce ourselves, point out our respective children and lapse into silence. I excuse myself and walk towards where Ammu and Pattu are having trouble pulling themselves on to the swings. It is an impromptu get together for first graders at the new school Ammu and Pattu will be in. Pushing the girls till they have enough momentum to keep themselves going, I move away. A kind man nods and I stand by him. He is a veteran at this thing and brings me up to speed on the teachers, the parent involvement and what to expect. I thank him and let the silence fill the space between us. Soon, I am standing by myself, the evening sun straight in my eyes. I am now joined by another couple, their daughters running around with mine. We exchange pleasantries and stand as the sun beats down on us.
The hour passes slowly, I circulate till I meet another mom running behind her toddler. We exchange notes and I linger. We talk about where our children went to preschool. We talk about our babies. We talk about where we live. We talk about what we do. The connection feels right. Our shared heritage does a lot of the talking for us. It settles on us like a comfortable bubble shielding us from awkwardness. From those silences that preempt conversation with others. By the time the sun slants and the kids are running with the smell of mulch clinging to them, I have exchanged phone numbers and set up a potential play date for the following week.
On the ride home, the girls talk of their new friends, of their new school. Their smiles reassure me they will be happy in the new place. We come home and I share my observations with my husband. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ I say as a preamble. He nods knowingly.
Each time I am in a new group, I go with an open mind. I try to be the person I want to be. I introduce myself, ask about where they live, what they do and then the conversation stalls with no obvious common points of interest. When I spy someone who looks like me, I make assumptions, I start out from a different place. Once I discover we speak the same language literally and metaphorically, I am already thinking of them as friends. I am comfortable asking them about childcare, about food, about career arcs. Often I realize it seems to be the same for the other person.
Late at night, as sleep creeps up on me, I realize there is a lot to be said about heritage, culture, race, language, food as binding factors. In my desperation to be color blind, I am perhaps closing myself to the possibilities that exist by being color aware. To celebrate the sameness as much as I crave the diversity. To fall back on the comfort of the home I carry within myself even as I adopt newer ones. To stop fighting what is natural and embrace it.