I spent my last day as a 30-something AT COSTCO WITH MY PARENTS.
Dad: How are you going to serve the goat cheese?
Dad: Are you going to chop it? Or just leave it out there for people.
Jenny: I … I don’t know. I think with the bread.
Dad: Because goat cheese is crumbly. It gets everywhere. You might want to get a hard cheese. Are you sure you don’t want to get the pre-sliced cheese?
Jenny: I don’t want the pre-sliced cheese.
Dad: Where’s the pita bread?
Jenny: I don’t know.
Dad: We need to find the pita bread. Also garbanzo beans. And lemon juice. How much lemon juice do you have at home?
Jenny: I … I don’t know. How much do you need?
Dad (gravely): Half a cup.
Jenny (gravely): I think I have that much.
Mom: Jenny, are you sure that’s the kind of salmon you want? This kind is twenty cents less an ounce than that kind.
Jenny (switching to Mom Language and holding a sleeve of salmon to my breast): THIS is the salmon I want. I’m feeling THIS salmon.
Mom: Yep. I totally understand.
Dad: Maybe the pita bread is down there.
Jenny: Dad, they might not have it. What about this bread? It’s naan.
Dad: No, that’s too airy. Jenny, do you think people will be using the pita bread for anything else? Besides the hummus? (DAD’S CROWNING GLORY IS HIS HOMEMADE HUMMUS HUMMUS BEHOLD THE HUMMUS.)
Jenny: I … I don’t know. OK, I’m going to go back and get the cake.
Mom: Are you sure you want the cake?
Mom: You said you didn’t want it because it has palm oil in it. You said it hurts the orangutans.
Jenny: (WALKS AWAY AND STANDS BEHIND A PARTITION)
My parents love the Bay, and they have arrived to help me usher in my middle age, gleeful and full of unsolicited advice. True to form, they got into SFO on Thursday morning, took BART to the Mission, and rolled their suitcases right to Tartine, where Dad hovered over a guy at an outside table until it “opened up.” Then they ordered a plain croissant, an almond croissant, the bread pudding, a ginger cake, and two lattes and then rolled themselves to Oakland and installed themselves in an AirBnB off Piedmont Avenue, where they have been alternately drinking wine and taking naps for two days. So far I’ve seen my father, who is 74, in his underpants more times than I could ever have dreamed!
Last night at dinner in their AirBnB:
Mom: We went to a café over here (points in the direction of Piedmont Avenue). What was it called?
Dad (through a forkful of salad): Smug and sassy.
Mom: I said, I want a cappuccino. The guy said, would you like almond soy or plain
Dad: Rose. He said “almond or soy.”
Mom: No, Dave, he said almond soy or plain soy.
Jenny: They didn’t have any real milk?
Mom: No! And I said no! Do I want both of those in a cappuccino? No! I want milk in my cappuccino!
Jenny (imagining my mother going apeshit on the barista): So they didn’t have milk?
Jenny: So what did you get?
Mom: I didn’t! We left!
Jenny: What did the guy say?
Mom: He said “suit yourself.”
Jenny: Was he nice about it?
Dad: Guy’s got a beard. Big hulking brute. It was kind of like a fuck you. Well, fuck you back.
Mom: Then we went to Peet’s and they said do you want a free sample. I said no.
Dad: I said yes.
Mom: And they only had two percent or skim!
Dad: They didn’t have whole!
Mom (shaking her head): They didn’t have whole.
(I’ve mentioned Mom Code before. My mom has an obtuse kind of shorthand that is impenetrable to anyone outside the family but instantly understandable to me [my dad might understand it, but he has a policy of non-response. Also we found out in 2009 that he has never cleaned out his ears. This is not a joke]. Since I started this blog I have been WAITING for an example, because nothing gets repeated. It’s all free association, a language that gets made up in real time. And last night it happened. Here’s what it looks like:)
Mom: Your uncle’s been reading a lot lately.
Jenny: What is he into?
Mom: He’s into Grisham and Orleander.
OK. I know EXACTLY what she means by “Orleander.” Do you? NO BECAUSE WHY SHOULD YOU IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. But I understand it, because this strange, small person has been my mother for 40 years and through necessity I have learned to speak her language.
Jenny: Mom. Mom. That’s what I’m talking about when I tell you about Mom Code.
Mom (dismissively stuffing feta cheese and olives into her mouth): You know what I mean.
Jenny: What would you have done if I wasn’t here?
Mom: I would have sat here for a few minutes trying to think of the title.
Mom: Are you going to make fun of me again? Give my fan base a rest.
(“Orleander” = White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Don’t ask me how I know. I don’t know how I know.)
Dad: Jenny, are you friends with [PERSON MY FATHER HAS ASKED ME IF I’M FACEBOOK FRIENDS WITH DURING EVERY CONVERSATION FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS]? Are you getting the news from them?
Mom: David thinks these people on Facebook are his friends. His real friends.
Dave: Rose. Put a sock in it.
Mom: We both fell sound asleep after lunch today.
Jenny: After how much wine?
Mom: (thinks) Not that much. (Still on a rant about Facebook:) Do you know how many pictures of their kids these people post? (By “these people” she means ALL PEOPLE.) I mean, if it were my kid, or your kid, fine. But I don’t give two shits. I don’t want to see it.
(FYI MY MOTHER ALSO MENTIONED THE SINGLE TIME SHE AND MY FATHER APPARENTLY HAD KITTENS, WHICH SHE DESCRIBED AS “ANNOYING.”)
Then they get around to Strong Jawline, my provider of intercourse for the last five months.
Mom: Is there anything you don’t want us to say?
Jenny (stares): Why are you asking me this now? When I’m 39? You’ve had years to act appropriately.
Mom: We just met him! We have clean territory here! Anyway there’s a list of guys with you. How invested are we going to get with this one?
Mom: Tell me. (Momentarily looking serious.) Is there anything we shouldn’t say when we’re around [my ex-husband’s name]?
Jenny: Yes. You shouldn’t call him [my ex-husband’s name].
Mom (collapses in laughter, delighted at her mistake and the chaos it could reap).
Jenny: Mom, what could I possibly tell you not to say that you would be able not to say? I could say, Mom, don’t say “frogs.” And you would see him, and two seconds later you would be like, FROGS! And you’d walk away, and he’d be like, what’s wrong with your mom? And I’d say, nothing, she’s fine now.
Dad: Oh, Rose. We’re here Monday night. We can see Big Bang Theory while we’re here.
For birthday cake, you need:
- Enriched wheat flour
- Palm and/or palm kernel and/or canola and/or coconut and/or soybean oils
- Egg whites
- Nonfat milk
- Pasteurized milk and cream
- Egg yolks
- Corn sugar
- Modified corn starch
- Xantham gum
- Locust bean gum
- Guar gum
- Vitamin 3
- Natural and artificial flavor
- Artificial color
- Modified food starch
- Gellan gum
- Sodium citrate
- Potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate
- Citric acid
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Carbohydrate gum
- Beta carotene
- Corn starch
- Cheese culture
- Carob bean gum
- Corn syrup solids
- Sodium caseinate
- Chocolate liquor
- Cocoa butter
- Milk fat