Thursday, May 14, 2009

There are Aliens... and then there are aliens....

And then there are aliens like me.

I almost don't consider myself one. Really. You couldn't tell from my writing. Besides, I've been well trained... I mean, educated in the ways of American pop culture by my husband and my kids. I get most references, even some pretty obscure ones. If I didn't tell you about my Russian background, you wouldn't know just from reading my writing.

But then something happens. And I really, really feel that I am truly an immigrant.

Now don't get me wrong. I dont' feel alienated. I don't feel like an outsider. In fact, I never felt more the sense of homecoming than that one day when my plane was slowly descending towards Texas and I was following the flight plan on the onboard GPS. And I was flying back from Paris, from visiting my brothers, and from attending one of my nieces' wedding.

Yup. I'm certainly home. I chose to be home here, and there's not one day I'm not amazed at just how home I feel. But that's a post for another day.

What brought on the post about aliens?

The prom tradition.

Yes. That.

It's that season, and my oldest child is a senior in High School.

It's not the social dance gathering part of the event.

I grew up in Paris in the Russian emigre community, and we had our share of formal annual events with their formal and old-fashioned dances. In formal dresses. With a display of formal, old-fashioned manners.

It's not that.

It's the school event part of it, and the whole mystique of it, the buildup, the talk, the memories everyone seems to share.

The kids were cute. Sweet. They went to the prom as a group, they stayed together, and I was happy about that. After all, each of them is headed for a different college and has college and career plans.

But still. Some part of me just doesn't get it. Some part of me is standing on the sidelines and watching it happening, and is bemused. The other kids' mothers are so excited, so thrilled that their own children are going through this... rite of passage.

Ah yes, that's it. I'm not a member of this tribe. I've been adopted, but I was too old to undergo certain rites of passage.

Like the prom.

So even though this vibrant, friendly, warm, American tribe has adopted me (and I, it), I am still the "adopted outsider" for having missed the rites of passage that would have made me an insider through and through.

My kids don't have that problem. I also think they get a perverse enjoyment out of their alien mother's occasional confusion.