My brother, Jesse, lives in China, and last week he got married. So Rose and Dave and I descended on him during typhoon season because everyone looks great in 90 percent humidity. Note to self: Foreign airlines are generally better than American airlines EXCEPT AIR CHINA HOLY MEAN-FACE STEWARDESSES AND SHITTY FOOD. HOW DO YOU FUCK UP RICE. On Air China, the first pass with the cart = non-alcoholic drinks. The second pass = shitty food. The THIRD pass, AFTER you’ve eaten your meal, is when they give up the goods = WINE. Even though I’m generally shameless, when the wine cart (well, that’s how I thought of it, even though you could also get orange juice, Pepsi, water BORING) came, I thought to myself, “Don’t ask for two glasses at the same time. Don’t ask for two glasses at the same time.” But when I asked for one glass of wine, Mean Face took my TEENY water cup and filled it HALFWAY. I took the cup. I set it on my tray. I stared at it. I thought, “You do not have to drink wine to survive an 11-hour flight.”
Then I remembered I DO HAVE TO DRINK WINE TO SURVIVE AN 11-HOUR FLIGHT MA’AM MA’AM CAN YOU PLEASE FILL MY GLASS UP ALL THE WAY AND I’LL BE DINGING YOU IN TEN MINUTES FOR MORE THANK YOU.
So at my brother’s wedding reception, a seated affair in the banquet room of a hotel with three tables and three lazy Susans, my mother sat between me and the most eligible bachelor in the room (hi, Matt!), a tall, handsome photographer who somehow — I WONDER HOW THAT HAPPENED JESSE — ended up at the family table. As I am building trust (YAWN) with Strong Jawline in the hopes of one day NOVEMBER 2016 being impregnated by him, I was not, for once, on a tear of getting hammered and getting laid at a wedding.
But I needn’t have worried!
During the only break in conversation, the sort of room-wide silence that is noticeable as it descends, although not noticeable to certain 74-year-old people, my mother turned to me and said in her loud, high-pitched voice, “JENNY, TELL US ABOUT STRONG JAWLINE. IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A BABY WITH HIM, WE NEED TO HAVE A LITTLE MORE INFORMATION. HE LOOKS LIKE A MOVIE STAR.”
First I blacked out. Then, when I woke up, Mom was still there, blinking behind her glasses, smiling her horsey smile, and waiting happily for an answer.
My own mother just cockblocked me at a wedding, I thought, with no lack of awe and respect.
So for the next couple hours I typed everything Mom said into my phone.
Mom: Can you turn it a little bit so I can get that funny stuff?
(“It” being the lazy Susan and “that funny stuff” being the food.)
Mom: I’m going to take Jesse’s champagne. (She waits until Jesse is out of sight and then pours his entire glass into her glass.)
Mom: Mmm. That champagne is good. (It’s Carlo Rossi.) Did they order it online? It was six dollars a bottle.
(A waitress brings another bottle of champagne to the table.)
Mom: Oh, we get two? That’s three. This table gets three bottles.
(Mom knocks her chopstick into her lap.) It’s starting. It’s starting!
Mom: My next thing is I’m going to get an iPhone. For the camera. I don’t like the small letters. You see how you have space in between the letters? I don’t.
Mom: Susan! You see how we have two bottles? I just wanted to point that out.
(Plates and plates of food start to arrive.)
Mom: I’m grabbing the shell. I don’t know how you do this but I’m grabbing the shell.
NOTES FROM THE AMERICAN TABLE:
Jenny: What the shit is this?
Gwen: I don’t know.
Jenny: I bet it’s tendon.
Gwen: Tendon what? Tendon of what?
Jenny: Would it matter what it’s a tendon of?
Gwen: I don’t think so.
Jenny: Gwen, look! (Holding up a tendon.)
Gwen: I don’t want one. I can’t do it if I don’t know what it is.
Mom: Ooh, this is good. Spicy.
Dillard: Spicy or real spicy?
Gwen: I do like spicy. I do like spicy.
Mom: Those are small egg yolk!
Gwen: Ginger. Mussels. Mmm. My favorite so far. Mini-octopus.
Dillard: Too spicy for me.
Jenny: Oh, my god. This is the most beautiful soup I’ve ever seen.
Mom: All right, I’ve got to stand up to do this. (Mom stands up to serve herself soup.) What is that? Is that a noodle? Oh, it’s a scallop.
Gwen: How do you say spicy?
Dillard: “La”! “La”!
Gwen (to me, as I get the hiccups): What are you doing? You got hiccups.
Mom: Jesse, Jesse, Jesse! The food is excellent.
Gwen: I need a box of Kleenex.
(My brother’s wife, Agua, calls from across the table): Rose! This is older sister. Do you still remember her name?
Mom (pause): No.
Dillard: Oh, that is hot. Really hot.
Mom: World’s fastest ceremony. Jenny wrote the whole thing last night.
Jenny: Jenny cut and paste the whole thing from the internet last night.
Mom: I have to pace myself. Because sometimes more food comes out. Last night my favorite came out last and I was too full. The eggplant.
Dad (offering me their apartment for the night): There’s a bottle of red wine in our refrigerator. Have it if you want.
(He starts moving food toward himself but it’s going too quickly past my mother.)
Mom: Hold it, David. Don’t go too fast.
Jenny: What’s in those fried things?
Mom: I’ll tell you.
(Mom tries to pick one up unsuccessfully.)
Mom: I’m not doing that so well.
(She spears one with a chopstick and then eats it with her hands.)
Jenny: What is it?
Mom: I don’t know but it’s pretty good.
Jenny: Is it possible you’re having a hot flash?
Mom: No more!
Jenny: When did you stop getting them?
Mom: Couple months.
Jenny: You had hot flashes until you were 74?
Jenny: What kind of legacy are you leaving me? Could you also leave me some money?
Mom: Working on it.
At one point, Mom stands up to give a speech. Jesse’s friend Ross translates it into Chinese. The first half is about how Mom has to give the speech because if Dad gave it they’d be there all night. No one laughs. Mom finishes, plops down, and turns to me.
Mom: Now I can really drink!
Mom: Did I tell you I deleted all my photos? I was at the store and they were fixing my laptop. I thought I could use this time to clean up my laptop. I clicked on one photo and it brought up an album. It had 352 pictures. I don’t know where it went!
Jenny: Did you check your trash?
Mom: I was like, is the universe trying to tell me something? The stuff from my storage space (a flood in their storage space ruined some of their things). My laptop.
Jenny: It might not be the universe. It might be in the trash folder.
Later, my mother discovered WeChat emojis. She exhibits a fondness for the ungainly pink monster who has a much smaller girl as her best friend and emotional support. Read into it what you will: