Last week, as I was sitting next to Caleb while he did his homework, we had a conversation.

Caleb:  Mommy, did you used to be smart?

Me, deciding now is not the time for a lesson about past and present tenses: Uh…well, you know, I like to think that I’m still smart.

Caleb: No, I mean, Daddy was even smart way back in high school. Were you?

Me, deciding now is not the time to talk about my rocky adolescence and general sense of disaffection from academic institutions:  Yep. Pretty much always been smart. How do you think you and your brother got to be smart yourselves?

Caleb: So I’m smart from both of you?

Me, wishing I’d paid attention during genetics lessons, deciding now is not the time to tell Caleb that “smart” and “paying attention” don’t always go together: Yep. Both of us.

Caleb, suddenly fearful: Does that mean I have to be a professor too?

Me, deciding that now is not the time to tell him that “smart” and “professor” don’t always go together: Nope. You can be whatever you want.

Caleb, relieved: Because I think I want to be a spy. Or a CIA agent. But maybe an author, too.


One out of three ain’t bad, I guess. The genetic apple maybe hasn’t fallen so far from the genetic tree.


Somehow, despite my apparent lack of intelligence, I am now writing regularly for The National, Abu Dhabi’s English-language paper.  Last week I wrote about world’s only truly universal language. It’s not chocolate and it’s not love.  It’s..Ikean-ease.   And the column before that was about an astonishing innovation coming soon to Abu Dhabi: street addresses.  It’s true. I live in a city where mail doesn’t get delivered to houses; only to post boxes or offices. It’s a little odd, and was annoying when we first moved here but now I feel sort of nostalgic about the vague chaos.