My daughter, her little girls and I got together on Monday for Mother’s Day. It was one day late, but as I have been under the weather, and her husband was working late, it worked out fine. She is so easy going, her company is just a pleasure.
The only thing is, she wanted Chinese food for dinner and I am simply not a fan. I used to be, but I worked in a Chinese restaurant when I was in high school and I just developed Chinese Food Overload. To dispel any horrible misconceptions or fallacies, I will tell you from the get-go, the restaurant, family-run and based in a store front, was immaculate. The food was what it said it was and the owners were kind, modest, extraordinarily hard working people. Although the Grandma viewed me with perpetual suspicion. Always peering at me out of the corner of her eye, she apparently never quite believed I was not going to sabotage their good name in some careless, disrespectful, American teenage way. Remember, also, this was the early 1970’s. Despite being a clueless, harmless dork, I was viewed as a treacherous hippie by some of the more conservative older generation.
But back to the restaurant. Dealing with all the food just got to be too much. Each shift the work was relentless. I rolled wontons, made mustard from mustard powder, prepared rice and fried shrimp toast. It was always broiling hot, with dozens of pots and pans continuously spewing grease and steam. Sometimes I was the only one working who spoke English. I answered the non-stop phone and took non-stop orders. I got yelled at constantly by Grandma, who would never accept a Westerner could prepare the food as well as someone who was Chinese (she probably was right). I answered zillions of questions from the customers. What’s in this, what’s in that, what does this taste like? As if I could explain to someone what something tasted like. I was such a brat I used to say “It tastes like chicken” and then would try not to laugh. My Number One personal favorite question, however, was when customers, apparently surprised to find an American kid working there, would ask me if I was Chinese.
Now I would be honored to be Chinese. We are talking about an incredible culture of art, music, literature and philosophy. Who would not be proud to be of Chinese descent? However, I look about as Irish as you can get. I look as though I just emerged from the valleys of western Ireland, which is exactly where my ancestors did immigrate from. So, again, being a clown/brat (take your choice), I started replying “Yes. Yes, I am indeed Chinese.” I always wanted to add “…you knucklehead.” Because I figured anyone dumb enough to ask that question deserved a snarky answer. Although I realize now the chances of them getting the joke was pretty much nil. So I just got my own private little giggle. Add all these things together, plus an unfortunate return on an investment of too much Egg Foo Young one night, along the way I just lost my taste for Chinese food. But Mary Kate loves it and she is so good to me, I couldn’t give her a hard time. So Chinese food for Mother’s Day it was.
After she and the girls left, I saw the ubiquitous fortune cookies had been left behind on the kitchen counter. So I made a cup of tea and opened the first one, expecting to have a good laugh at the preposterous syntax and ‘message’ I was about to be presented with.
I know they are random. I know they have no base in reality what so ever and are spit out by a machine in a factory somewhere in Queens. But here is what I read:
“Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.”
Anyone who has been reading this blog knows I am dealing with a very poor cancer prognosis. But even worse, I have faced some devastating issues involving family members I love deeply. These concerns, these losses, are on my mind almost constantly. Life is too short. And hating is a total waste of time and energy, even if you are not sick.
At a time when there is so much rancor in my family, I just pray that this otherwise worthless piece of paper might suggest a message of peace and forgiveness. I wish more than anything that people I love can find compassion and tolerance in their hearts. Nothing on the face the earth could feel better.
Of course, because the universe loves a good giggle, the next fortune cookie read:
“Statistics are no substitute for judgment.”
I’ll stick with the message I actually understand, thank you very much.
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