We were tucked into a plush bed long after bedtime in a lodge in the Smokies, and Nina wanted a bedtime snack — which I didn’t have. She whined, asking how I could possibly be so unprepared, reminding me that mamas should plan ahead when away from home.
We volleyed back and forth. She asserted, “You should have packed snacks,” and I replied, “You should have eaten your dinner.”
After we repeated our lines several times, I finally said in exasperation, “Nina, it’s not like you’re standing in a long line at a refugee camp waiting for a bowl of rice.”
Then, in the darkness right next to me she whispered, “What’s a refugee?”
A backup beep-beep signal flared in my mind as I realized what I’d stepped into. I tried to explain simply, and she became quiet again.
Then, “Mama? Why do people have wars?”
Beep, beep. I faltered through that explanation as well, and she was quiet for several minutes. I held my breath, willing her to fall asleep so I wouldn’t have to bluff my way through more simplification of the complexities of the human race.
“But Mama,” she piped up, “Why do the refugees order Chinese food?”