By Diane Ako
Claus' parents are very quiet. They say as much in the entire six weeks at my house, as I might say in one evening to my husband. To be fair, I am a recovering journalist, therefore a real talking head.
Since she only sees us once a year, and he has lived away from home for 28 years, I figure she might like to know more about the ins and outs of her son's daily life. In a very, very quiet car ride, I could no longer stand the one-way flow of questions or the silence if I stopped speaking.
In my attempt to get more than a yes/no answer, I asked, "So. Is there anything you want to know about us?"
"Americans?" she said, puzzled.
"No, us. Claus. Our daily lives. What he does. What he likes," I offered.
After a pause, because I'm certain nobody has ever asked her this before, she said, "No, I know what he likes. He loves his family." And that was that.
Your natural tendency at this point is probably to ask if it's cultural. Americans are less familiar with Danes than we are with other countries. I venture to say no. While Europeans don't engage in meaningless small talk ("Hi, how are you?") I've been around enough Danes to know hers is an individual characteristic, not to be put on the entire country.
That's fine. She is who she is. I tried.
Later in the week, I visited my paternal cousin. The entire Ako side is full of talkers. I love my family, but I'm being honest when I say we just don't shut up. My dad, his sisters, my cousins and me. We talk. A lot. A holiday with our clan would be overstimulation for the quieter types.
I laughed about this to Claus later, "I thought I could talk a lot because journalists are called the chattering class, but I am wrong. I just came from Auntie Roz's house. It's my DNA."
He got a weird look on his face and walked off without comment. I was confused.
"Did you hear me? What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm practicing my selective hearing. If your talking is an inherited trait, then that's how the other members of your family survive," he explained. Then went to look for his Bose noise-cancelling headset.