Monday, June 13, 2005

Weekend at Home

Weekly to bi-weekly telephone conversations with my parents usually consist of questions from the following list:

1. where are you?
2. have you eaten [insert nearest meal here] ?
3. what did you eat?
4. how did you cook it?
5. why did you fry it?
6. you know that baking it tastes just as good and it’s better for you. less work, also.

oh wait, that isn’t a question.

6. how’s work?
7. are you learning something?
8. it’s important to learn something new every day.


8. what did you do yesterday?
9. what are you doing today?
10. shopping again?
11. don’t buy anything full price. wait until it’s 40 or 50 percent off. (pause for my argument) It’s ok if it’s a little bit ugly. You said you don’t want to get married anyway, so who cares?

It’s a rhetorical question, but a question nonetheless.

A weekend at home with the parents in person is not much different. On hearing that I was traveling home for the weekend, someone asked me, “So what do you do when you hang out with your parents?” And I said, “Do? What do we do?” And he said, “Yeah. Like, what kind of stuff do you guys do together?” And I said, “uhhhhhhhhh. hmm, good question. umm. eeeehhhhhhhhh.”

After some careful thought and consideration (and live examples), I am pleased to announce that I was able to make a short list of things that I do when I’m hanging with the parents. Notice that this is a list of things that “I” do, not necessarily that “we” do.

a) make small talk (refer to questions above).

b) watch my dad cook.

this usually includes a mini-cooking lecture about something incredibly useful, such as the Most Efficient Way to Unpeel Garlic.

c) read one of the magazines scattered messily on the coffee table.

These are usually very recent National Geographics or TIME magazines from the late 90s. I have no idea how this happens.

d) go grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping with my mother is one of the most inefficient processes I have ever witnessed, but this is her passion, so I’m not passing judgment. An inextraordinary shopping expedition with mom will be fun and painless, spent browsing around the asian snack and candy aisles, until she informs me that we must now relocate to the grocery down the street because they have the best Obscure Green Vegetable. This is fine. I’m all about quality.

Around 25 minutes into the second grocery, I am remembering that all asian snacks and candies are pretty much the same, and I start thinking about how much plastic is used to wrap such a small quantity of sugar bombs. After I hunt down mom, I find her removing her glasses to meticulously inspect the minute differences between these fifteen different bags of dried shrimp. I whine, and she says, “OK! Almost done. Now we just need tomatoes.”

This gigantic grocery store has ginger flavored gummi bears, tanks of giant lobster, coffee flavored jello, but no tomatoes. I grumpily drive her to the third grocery store and am thoroughly annoyed by the time we are driving home. For a minute I think about the fact that maybe I should work on developing more finesse in distinguishing the finer qualities in fresh produce and fine foods in general and how I should appreciate that my mother is good at this and also at mechanical physics until I decide that developing finesse for food and/or physics is too much work and that we must be fundamentally wired differently and will never be able to fully relate, and it is around this time that we get home and I

e) play the piano.

It’s always nice to have this fallback when I start to exaggerate very minor interactions with the parents into grave and overwhelmingly large life issues. It’s not always the fallback...I’ve always liked playing the piano, although it’s more frustrating because I suck now. But it’s a nice reminder of my career as a wannabe prodigy, and I think the Rachmaninoff makes my parents feel a tiny bit better about spending mad cash on a gorgeous, neglected Steinway grand that spends most of the year as a matte lacquered coaster with excellent tone.

f) eat dinner and then salty snacks afterwards.

Dinner is always delicious and tasty. My dad has been cooking for the past few years because he finds it theraputic, which is fabulous because my mother and I despise cooking. My mother because she cooked dinner every day for 25 years and I because I am lazy.

Conversation is filled by my parents, who talk about friends and work (they work together) in Taiwanese. I sit there and eat and space out, because I don’t speak Taiwanese, and understand only very basic sentences such as “Come eat dinner,” and “Go vacuum your room.” I didn’t realize that it was slightly strange and very rude to be blatantly excluded from a dinner conversation until a good friend from college pointed this out.

g) watching a two-hour program on pbs

first because we are asian and fancy ourselves educated and erudite, and second because our local reception is so shitty that the only other stations that come in are showing programs featuring either the food dehydrator or people speaking spanish. There is a wide range of possibilities for the actual content of the program, but, as always, there are popular recidivists, classifiable in the following three categories.

a: Historical. I don’t know exactly why my dad enjoys watching these, because he knows all of this information already. He preempts the narrator with accurate dates, involved parties, and geographic migratory patterns when applicable (nomadic populations).

b: Natural. We watch these to completion. They’re very interesting. Did you know that when sea anemones are broken apart by rocks, that each new piece becomes a new sea anemone? Gross! Fascinating!

c: Celtic. My parents are obssessed with anything that has to do with Ireland, or the UK in general. They used to be focused purely on anything produced by the BBC, but they have since branched out, and this past Saturday we watched a two-hour special featuring women from Ireland singing random pretty songs. Not sure when sharing a fairly common talent with other women that also live in your country of 4 million became so special such that a PBS pledge drive feature was in order, but whatever.

It may not sound like the most riveting weekend, but it’s always nice and relaxing to go back to a familiar and contained situation.


Blogger grease on potato chip said...

Is there sarcasm in that bit about unpeeling garlic? Unpeeling garlic is very important to me. I smash my cloves with the bottom of an olive oil bottle. What did he say to do?

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Blogger grease on potato chip said...

That Celtic special was very nice.

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