My mother-in-law arrived for her semi-annual trip. It’s the Wong version of Christmas Vacation
We all met her at the airport with a homemade sign. We spot her tiny frame pulling her usual a 200 pound suitcase loaded with Gingko Biloba seeds, dry bean curd (that smells like feet), 2 cooked Peking ducks, and jars and jars of peanuts–because you’ll never know when Miami will have a peanut shortage.
Our Grandma Wong stopped coming a year ago at a convenient time during the holidays because she caught on to how much we “really” paid to book her trips during high season (I suspect one of her jealous friends clued her in—that bitch!) It’s as if she believes that her Chinese ancestors would be ashamed of her if we pay for overpriced airfare. Instead, we fly her in several weeks ahead. ( Not convenient, but cheaper!)
This sadly has ended a well intentioned tradition of my husband dutifully lying about the cost of flying her First Class for Thanksgiving and Christmas: Two holidays that she had never celebrated until I barged into his life with Jewish and Christian holidays . ” The White Woman.” ( I don’t know if she actually refers to me in this way to my husband, but I have my suspicions.)
It’s a bit of a disruption that she comes so early because school is full on, and we don’t have a guest bedroom, so my teenager gets really put off. Try expecting a mopey teen to be reasonable about not having her much needed privacy for a few weeks. It gets a little crowded, “hormoney”, and awkward.
You ask why we don’t put her up in a hotel? You obviously do not have a Chinese mother-in-law. She isn’t comfortable anywhere but under our roof. You can’t put her in a hotel, AirBNB, or even a well meaning friend’s guest house. She is here for three things and three things only: make sure that I haven’t corrupted her son, and two grandchildren by too much white People culture; feed them her delicious home cooked Cantonese food that reminds them that my cooking is subpar in comparison; torture me with making every square inch of my house smell like boiled peanuts and putrid chicken guts.
Can you imagine that she isn’t my biggest fan?
You’d think that she’d appreciate how I have held onto my independence by being a working mom, my control freak tendencies when it comes to the cleanliness/order of the house, and ability to come up with my own folding technique for wontons.! So–they do fall apart when dropped in boiling water! They still taste the same! She should be praising me for my patience in raising her crazy-as-hell-grandchildren, how I am teaching them cool things like rescuing earth worms after it rains, and I’m doing a pretty good job at teaching everyone to go with the flow ( this may be why she loathes me) The only attention I get is the unnerving, perfected-for-generations Chinese death stare. It kind of sucks for me so thank the heathen heavens I have my wine!
She is disappointed that moi hasn’t potty trained the 3 year old, anguished that I haven’t made Kien sit down and learn Bach’s Concerto in B minor (she doesn’t appreciate Kien’s unique compositions, yet), and downright sickened that her grandchildren are not speaking fluent Mandarin — although, they do have unique accents that are a hybrid of Chinese, Spanish, and English. (We proudly call this Changlish)
She sighs (a lot) whenever I walk into the kitchen to make lunch or dinner. Disapproves of the vegetarian, gluten free, organic white-people-food that I cook. ( What?— brown rice is healthier than white!) She has started getting up earlier to make the kid’s breakfast before school, and dominates the kitchen during lunch and dinner. My dining table gets set up as a chicken flesh covered dumpling factory. It takes the patience of a Saint-in-a-whorehouse to not wipe down every square inch of the kitchen with bleach in front of her. I should get some kind of points for that.
Have you ever seen a Sub Zero freezer filled to the max with bags of homemade Chicken wontons, rice wrappers, and Ginko Biloba in shells? It can be a bit daunting for a girl who has no room for her secret ice cream stash aka, sugar therapy.
The silver lining of Grandma’s visit is that my husband and children are ecstatic when she’s here. She has been teaching Kien how to play the piano (even though Grandma Wong has no formal training.). Her patience has won my little Olivia over into sitting on the potty,, bribed with spoonfuls of salmon and white rice, popped in front of (gasp!) the tv watching cartoons . Guess what? Olivia ended up making a few pee pees which she proudly showed me by pouring her butt vessel over my shoes! (Gratitude!)
Yes, it’s not a hallmark card moment when she comes but my sweet husband loves to sit up late (over a bowl of his favorite dinner) and listen to his mom recount childhood stories from her days in China, and they love to gossip about— I don’t even want to guess!
She makes our little family feel even more like a family!
This is our dysfunctional, extended, hellish, wine filled Wong holidays, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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