Searching For Self

Strangers are not the only ones looking for likenesses between Nerissa Marcon and her children.

It has suddenly dawned on me that I no longer notice the curious glances strangers give my children and me as we meander around the shopping centre. I guess it has only taken eight years – the time since my first child was born. I can understand people’s curiosity. It must have looked unusual to see a tall, blonde woman carrying a dark-haired, olive-skinned baby on her hip as any mother would. I sigh with relief that at least the strangers’ questions have stopped.

I vividly remember being asked several times by nosy women in waiting queues whether I was the mother of my child. “Ooh, is he yours?” they would ask in high-pitched voices of intrigue. What were they thinking? That I was the nanny? This bothered me at the time. Surely, anyone with any sense could see that I was a mother – after all, I had the full breasts and baby belly to prove it. I only wish I had taken more delight in the looks on their faces as I’d sat down to breastfeed. That would have showed them. There’s your answer.

I considered pre-empting the inquisition. I actually pondered the possibility of getting a T-shirt made up saying, ‘Yes, he is mine!’ Looking back, it’s a shame really that I didn’t do it. I like to be a little bit unexpected.

For some inexplicit reason, I enjoy standing out from the crowd; challenging the norm; surprising people of convention. I think this outlook influenced my choice in men and my ultimate choice of a father for my children. He is, you see, half African-American, half Korean. My children, therefore, are a quarter black, a quarter Asian, a quarter Italian thanks to my father, and a quarter Aussie thanks to my mother. They are truly children of a global world. ‘Children of the future’ I call them.

They can identify with myriad cultures and people. They are first and foremost Aussie because they were born here, and they are growing up surrounded by the beautiful surrounds of the Australian bush. However there is no way you could guess, just by looking at them, where they come from. And I love it. I love it that they cannot be judged simply by their appearance. Their looks alone simply do not fit any distinct stereotype. Indeed, I joke with my son now that he could pass as Eskimo!

The only downside is that no-one, other than myself, seems to be able to see me in them. People tend to be thrown by the colour of my children’s skin, finding it impossible to look beyond that to the features we do share. At times it can be disappointing. Recently, I mentioned to a friend that my son reminds me very much of myself at the same age and she replied, “You’re so desperate to see yourself in him!” Harsh words. I held my breath and looked away. In truth, I’m not desperate to see myself in him because I already do. It’s more that I’d like others to see me in my son and my other children, as I do.

I’m not sure why I find this an important concept. I suppose that being proud of my children, I’d gain satisfaction if others saw that they get certain attributes from me and my side of the family. Then I could say, ‘See – I told you they’re half me! My body did create them (with some help from their father)’. On this note, I was secretly chuffed the other day when my son’s blood group was discovered to be the same as mine – A positive, not O like his father. I high-fived my son as the doctor handed me the blood-group card. “Yeah, you’ve got Mum’s blood!” I said with no small degree of satisfaction.

As for the public arena, I mentioned before that these days, as we stroll together through the shopping centre, I am largely oblivious to the stares of others. Perhaps they no longer stare. Or perhaps it is more likely that now that my children are older, it is obvious that they are mine. It’s a little harder to miss when they are calling out “Mum” every second. Their favourite expressions are “Mum, I want that,” and “Mum, I’m hungry”. But it’s okay. It actually makes me smile.

For they may not look like me in the slightest, but they are unquestionably gorgeous and intelligent. And when they call out my name, it makes me glad I’m their mum. And it makes me glad others know I’m their mum too – even if they do think they’re adopted!

Illustration by Andrea Smith