Chinese Food, Hold the Lychees, Please…

Happy Mother's Day Teddy Bear

Chinese Food, Hold the Lychees, Please…

So after yesterday’s deep freeze, it is an absolutely gorgeous morning here. Perfect way to start Mother’s Day! We may still be on lockdown rules(Day 53 I think???), but you wouldn’t know it here…

Thank goodness the beaches are still open, at least some of them anyway. The beach is one of my favorite places. Not for going in the water, but for the smells, the atmosphere, everybody gets there and they’re HAPPY. The fresh salt air is amazing. It heals whatever ails you. You see, where we used to live, it was all city. It was an almost 2-hour drive to the beach, and if you had the energy to drive to the beach and do a day trip, you still had that 2-hour drive home. Now that we live close by, we are able to go whenever we want. We will go in the middle of the winter just to walk and smell the salt air.

So now, with this Coronavirus lockdown, EVERYTHING’S been closed. Parks, beaches, theaters, restaurants, unnecessary stores… But last week, they FINALLY opened SOME parks and SOME beaches, so that we can at least get a little feeling of being out with other people. Mother’s Day is the BIGGEST restaurant day of the year, but due to this Covid-19 shutdown, they’re all closed. So pretty much all you CAN do is go out for a walk. But that’s NOT necessarily a BAD thing. Let me explain…

Let me flash back to a Mother’s Day I believe 40 years ago. I had just gotten done delivering newspapers, and I would take the long way home walking Anderson Avenue. There was a bagel shop that you could smell a mile away. And there was a tiny flower shop next door. They would sell carnations for literally like $0.25 each. My mom’s favorites were carnations called Mamie Eisenhowers. Those were the ones where they would stick them into red food coloring, so that the plant would take the water and the red dye would go through the veins of the plant. They were snow white carnations that had red veins going through them. I had remembered my mom telling me one time that she absolutely loved them, so I ran into the store and I bought a bunch of them.

So I take the flowers and I go home, and my mom is sitting in the kitchen having her coffee. I said Happy Mother’s Day and I gave her the flowers and her face lit up, and she thought they were absolutely beautiful. She paused for a minute, and she said, “Listen, do me a favor. These are absolutely lovely, and I love them. But please don’t buy me cut flowers as a gift.” I remember my heart sinking because I couldn’t understand, I thought I had done a good thing?

She went on to say, “They’re beautiful, and I can put them in water right now, but in a couple of days they will turn brown and they will get thrown away. But you see, for that same money, we could go out for lunch. Do you know why that’s better?” Of course, at this point I’m confused. She goes on to say, “Because that is time that you and I would be spending together. Creating memories.” Took a second for that to sink in for me.

Fast forward to the present. I have a young son, and I have tried to instill the same beliefs in him. And with all the layoffs on lockdown, as it is for many, money is tight. I have taugh t him that a huge hug and a kiss is always enough! But if the weather is good, I love taking long walks. Taking in the sights, the smells. Fresh cut grass, and the spring flowers in bloom are creating amazing smells right now.

During this lockdown, trying to get out of the house and walk around safely, we’ve been walking at least once or twice a week for an hour or two. I love taking those walks with my husband and my son, because it is time spent together. In our busy life, we forget what’s important. We forget the simple things. The sites, the smells, the joys and the time together. The old saying that it may not seem like much, but it’s everything to me rings true here. As well, we may not have much but we always have each other.

And the reason I cherish that so much? Technically, I almost did not become a mother. My son was the only one that stuck, and I developed health issues and he came early. But thank God, he was a fighter! And he is the greatest gift that I ever could have been given. So I try to instill the same beliefs in him that my mom instilled in me. Are there tough times? Absolutely! But we get through them together.

And on a lighter note, I have to laugh. I was at CVS and I was passing through the Mother’s Day card aisle. You know me, I have a little more twisted sense of humor? Now that I’m older, I look at some of these cards that I would pick out and give to my mom if she was still here, God rest her soul. There’s everyone’s favorite, the one that says, “Don’t forget to buy mom a bottle on Mother’s Day. Just remember you’re the reason why she drinks.” I’m sure I drove my mother to drink more than once in her life.

Or the other one with a mother and a daughter baking together, mother says, “What did you learn in today’s cooking class, sweetie?” And the little girl answers, “That take out menus are in the top drawer.” That was one of my mom’s favorite things that became MY favorite, Chinese food. And, ironically, remember what I said that my mom said about making memories? Well, three of them stand out in my mind with my mom…

First time we went to actually sit down and eat in a Chinese restaurant, I was, I think 7 years old?  It was a great place literally two and a half blocks from our house. Best Chinese food of my entire life, true Chinese/Cantonese food. My mother used to love ordering like a smorgasbord, where we could taste a little bit of everything, so we shared as a family. But that particular night, for whatever the reason, I was really hung up on the pork fried rice. All I remember was sitting there enjoying my fried rice and all of a sudden my mother literally slapped me upside the head. I yelled, “Oww! What was that for?!” She was like, “There’s shrimp and lobster and steak on the table, and you’re sitting there eating fried rice, omg! I can make you rice at home, eat the seafood!”

Fast forward a few years, and I took Mom out for her birthday. And yes, we went out for Chinese, lol! That kind of became our thing. So the waiter goes to bring us over the pot of hot tea. And of course, on the table are these really cute Chinese tea cups and saucers. My mom looks at them and goes, “Oh my God these are so cute!” I hear her say this as I’m looking at my menu and I don’t give it a second thought. The server comes over and takes our order, he walks away, and I see my mom admiring the teacups. She looks up at me with this small sideways smile. I look at her and I say, “What?” She keeps smiling and I say, “Whaaat?!”

Then it clicks for me and I look at her and go, “Ma, don’t you dare. Ma? Don’t do it!” She just looks at me and kind of harumphs and starts eating her Chinese noodles. You know, the crunchy ones with the mustard and the duck sauce? When you first sit down? Anyway, we eat, the guy brings the check, we go to pay and get ready to leave.

So I go to stand up and my mom calls my name, and I look over as she holds her bag open wide enough for me to see that she’s got that damn teacup and saucer in her pocketbook! Here I am, like 16 years old and I’m like crapping myself knowing that the guy still has to bring back the change and here’s my klepto mom with a freaking teacup set in her handbag she’s stealing and we still gotta get out the door as she’s sitting there giggling, holy shit!!!

(Did I tell you I love my mom???)

Then the third of the Chinese food trio, the night of my high school graduation. My mom had found this amazing Chinese buffet, awesome fresh food, blazing hot. I had never been there and this was the greatest thing since freaking sliced bread! So when we were done, they asked if we wanted any ice cream. So of course, our favorite was pistachio, which always came with the almond tea cookies. The guy comes back with that and another little garnish that was on the side…

“What the hell are those?” I asked. I see my mother cock her head sideways as she poked it with her fork, and I’m doing the same. She calls the guy over, and says, “Excuse me, what are these?” With a big crooked smile, he says, “Those lychees!” She just said “Oh. Okaaaay.” “Is fruit,” he adds. Now, if you Google, “What is a lychee,” you will see that it is a part of the soapberry family. Except it is snow white, shiny, and slippery because it was dipped in oil, I kid you not…

So my mom and I are sitting there looking at each other, looking at the lychees, looking at each other, looking at the lychees and we’re giggling. I’m like, “Ma, no.” She’s like, “Oh come on, this is why you don’t eat a whole lot of different things! You’re never going to know if you don’t taste it!” As I’m poking this thing with my spoon, it’s literally squishy and oily. She goes, “Come on! Put it on your spoon!” This thing is literally slithering sliding on the spoon because it is covered in oil! “Who the hell in their right mind would put this on ice cream?!” I barked. So she goes, “Okay, on the count of three! One! Two! Three!”

So on three, we each shove one of those god-awful, God forsaken, nasty, disgusting, slimy pieces of white gray matter into our mouths. We each went to clamp down on them and just stopped we looked at each other laughing with our mouths closed. they were so nasty, neither one of us could chew them, neither of us dared! They let out a little soggy crunch and a mouthful of soapy oil… We were literally holding them in our mouths, laughing as we’re each starting to cry from laughing so hard snorting through our noses because we don’t know where the hell to spit them out, holy freaking shit! They were literally slimy, covered in oil, with a little bit of a fibrous crunch, and I swear to good God almighty they tasted like soap, I shit you not! 

This went on for like 30 seconds and we each grabbed our napkins, spit them out, grab our waters, literally trying to wash down the oil that was stuck in our mouths. Then grabbing a huge mouth full of ice cream to try to make it all go away. Making memories? Now that, my friends is a memory that lives on!!!

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, Mother’s Day is not about the gift. Mother’s Day is not about flowers. Maybe you have a materialistic mom and it does, I don’t know. But at the end of the day, it’s about spending the time together. She put you here on this earth, she raised you, and hopefully, she’s like your best friend. There are plenty of times you may not see eye-to-eye, but she’s always there for you. Today’s the day to make sure she knows that you know that. Well, you should let her know that every single day, but you know what I mean! Because one day, you’re going to look back and say oh my God! My mother was right about everything!

And just remember, call your Mom today and say something nice! And remember, it’s YOUR FAULT that she pees a little bit every time she sneezes!!!
Happy Mother’s Day!