A little more than a year before Sandra Bullock hoisted her Academy Award for "The Blind Side," I interviewed her for the cover of InStyle magazine. It was midmorning, and we sat down in a booth in her Austin restaurant, Bess, to go through a slew of questions from fans across the country. Her answers were to be part of a Q&A in the magazine.
We talked about the awkward outsider feelings of adolescence, about not having perfect looks, about daughters and sisters, about the strength of women and the power of moms. And as I sat listening to the rapid-fire thoughts of this wildly energetic person, the thing that struck me most was this: If ever there was a woman born to be a mom, it was this person sitting across from me. And that's not what I usually feel when I yak with a Hollywood superstar.
She talked about the closet full of dresses she had, and how she couldn't wait for the day her stepdaughter Chandler could pick one for prom. I asked her what her first big splurge was when she made it in the business, and she told me it was a black BMW complete with ribbon that she bought her parents for Christmas. She talked (because I asked) about how impressed she is by the kids at the Warren Easton Senior High School in New Orleans (to which she has donated gobs of money). She talked about how much she loves her sister. She talked about her disabled pooches. She kept trying to feed me and offered me brownies from the kitchen. It's not easy to make a Jewish mother (me) feel like she's being one-upped at mothering, but Sandra Bullock just did it naturally.
As Bullock answered each question, I felt like she was trying to verbally mother the fans doing the asking, even though they weren't there. To one woman who asked what Bullock would tell a girl who feels ugly because she's not blonde and does not have fine features, Bullock responded, "I would say to this person: 'Just wait, because your place will come later on. Those people judging you might be peaking now. You're just growing into the beautiful thing you're supposed to be.'"
Bullock's mom, Helga, died when Bullock was 35, but she often brings her -- and moms in general -- into conversation. She told me that the most important thing she learned from her mom was this: "Be original." "I now get it," she said. "I now get what that means. Whereas when I was a kid, I was like, 'Shut up. I need to be like everyone else.' I get it now, and I wish I had gotten it then, but I wasn't supposed to because I was, as I like to call it, half-baked. You only get to experience what that means and understand it when you're baked. I'm baked. I get it."
When a question came up about what Bullock viewed as her greatest accomplishment, acting did not come up. Here's what did: "Being a good wife, being a good stepmom, being a good current wife to the ex-wife that I like, being a good employer, being a friend," she said. "It's all the mom things in us."
The more I listened to Bullock's answers, the more the mother in my heart kept wanting her to have children of her own. I kept thinking that this person has enough love (and energy) for an army. So I asked if she had considered it. "I haven't had children biologically," she said. "I had shut that [feeling] off; then I met Jesse and it turned on again. I went, 'Oh my God, that's that feeling.'
"But then we both realized [that] to bring someone into this world right at that time, when I was feeling it, was not responsible because we had to take care of some other things that were already on this planet that needed our undivided attention. And I go, 'I hope to God that when we get to a place again where all is safe and calm and happy and healthy, I hope it's not too late.' Because I feel that feeling. But if it is too late, guess what? There are millions of children on this planet that I would be honored to call my child."
What a lucky kid that would be, I thought from the other side of the booth. What a lucky kid that is, I thought today when I read the news of her adoption. And for the new mom -- who was so kind and welcoming to me from across the table -- I wish I could pass on the advice she gave that day to a young woman who had written in and asked how to get through those days when everything seems tough. "My dad has a joke," she said. "He goes, 'Whenever you're near Sandra, there's a disaster, but you'll be fine.' Because I seem to be in places where it happens right in front of me, but if you can weather the storm long enough ... I can say that everything that's happened to me, later on, I've seen a silver lining ... and I go, 'Wow, if that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have this.'"