I first met my son in a Guatemala City hotel room. Surrounded by his foster family, all of whom were weeping, I held that little eight-months’ old miracle in my big clumsy hands—these hands!—and, gazing into his eyes, murmured “Me llamo pappa”: My name is Potato. I had been studying Spanish, you see.
They say (Zen teacher Cheri Huber says) that how you do anything is how you do everything. This anecdote tells you a lot about me, and what to expect: authenticity, mistakes, honesty. Some things are true even if they never happened, according to Ken Kesey or The Talmud, whichever came first; but this thing actually happened.
Shortly after I moved to Heidelberg to study, one of my American housemates was walking along the street and saw a mother pushing a stroller with two apparently identical babies in it. Housemate said, “Wie nett. Sind sie Zwiebeln?” (How nice. Are they onions?) When housemate returned home, still shocked at the expression on the mother’s face, our German landlord explained to her that perhaps she had meant to say Zwillinge (twins).