Finding an answer to a difficult question

A red teacup with tea and a spoon inside rests on a lime green saucer, which itself rests on a warm-wooden tabletop.

“So, do you have any kids?” she asked. We were in a nicely-appointed conference room with four upholstered armchairs in a circle around a small coffee table. On it was my insulated coffee mug and her porcelain one. She hadn’t opened the package of pumpkin spice cookies, but she had taken a look at the word-search and crossword puzzle book. I was drinking green tea, and she had chamomile.

The conversation started off brisk, but as we were waiting for the other interviewers to arrive, I found myself at a loss for what to say to her. She was a client who had been previously served by our organization, but because I was new to my position, the only things I knew about her was from her official file. I poured over every case management note in the attempt to provide a brief biography that didn’t overstate her situation or reveal too much about her past needs or the needs of those who were under her care. The more I read, the less I wrote; in the end, there were just two paragraphs about how she came to the organization’s attention and how things were going for her now.

As we waited, we talked of favorite foods, the differences between her family’s culture and mine. When she revealed that she was interested in sudoku puzzles, I told her what I’d learned about cryptography and how they recruited people for Bletchley Park during World War II. But eventually, the conversation slowed to a silence. And then she asked the question.

A dozen answers went through my mind in a millisecond before I found myself saying, “No, I’m not able to have kids.”

She smiled at me. “I think you’d make an amazing mother.”

“Thank you, kindly,” I replied. “That’s very kind of you to say.”

Cup of tea” by Le dahu is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.