The weekend turned out way better than I could have dreamed. Not only am I totally bounce-bounce-bounce about making those two sales to Here & Now, but I really like my new stepfather. He’s kindly and nice and very sharp. He also called Hobkin “The Little Gentleman” which, of course, totally charmed me.
He’s got sensibilities which are much closer to what Matthew and I have than I would’ve expected someone who got hitched to my mother would have. Like whenever she goes out to eat, she always wants to eat at Chinese restaurants, which is why the first night we took them to a Thai place. We figured it was a little different, but still close enough not to cause undue stress. I don’t really get her preference, because when I travel, I want to eat different cuisines and experience new things. But I thought, “well, it must be a generational/cultural thing or maybe she just feels more comfortable with familiar stuff.” I assumed he felt the same way. But, as the weekend wore on and my stepfather started talking more, it came out that he thinks the way Matthew and I do. He was all “Why do you want to eat Chinese food? We can have Chinese food in China” to my mother, and so after that we decided to eat different things.
We took them to the California Pizza kitchen for lunch where they shared a Mexican pizza (I can’t remember what it was called but it had salsa, guacamole, and caramelized onions on it). She seemed a bit dubious, but he really liked it! He commented several times on how good it was. And then for dinner, we took them to the Macaroni Grill, where my mother insisted they have lasagna (and then complained about it). But he again seemed quite pleased with it.
We also took them to North Pointe Mall because my mother wanted to pick up some American cosmetics. They seemed very happy to wander around the shops and chatter about whether something was made in China and how much it would cost there versus how much it costs here. Apparently things from America are much more expensive there. And you can’t trust the shopkeepers not to literally slice a bit off the top. My mother commented as she bought a little jar of eye cream that once when she’d bought the same jar in a store in Beijing (for twice the cost), when she opened it, she discovered it was half empty. Apparently one of the shop girls had scooped out some. They also commented that there’re a lot of items that are made in China, but that you can’t get them there because they’re exclusively for export.
We came back to our house for tea and to let them take the obligatory pictures. Our tea selection got their nod of approval. And my stepfather seemed quite amused by our bear tuffet. He spent a lot of time perched on it instead of sitting on the couch, which of course charmed me again, as anyone who prefers sitting on a stuffed bear over a couch obviously has their priorities screwed on properly.
Hobkin was a big topic of interest and amusement. My mother still kept trying to poke him in the face. And when I finally swiveled him around in my arms so she could pet his back, she sort of thwapped and jostled him. Not hard enough to hurt him or anything, but not the soothing stroking that animals like. Hobkin seemed rather perplexed and put out by this odd treatment, but again, he didn’t growl or huff at her. I don’t get it. My mother does the exact wrong things to make friends with animals, and they totally love her. Although I don’t think Hobkin is very enamored with her. I got him settled in my lap, and my mother did her weird thump-pat on his back, which prompted him to hop off my lap and go scampering away to hide under the hutch.
I also found out my mother did not, as it were, take my stepfather’s last name. She explained that it’s not done that often in China. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, but either way, I at least know how to address their Christmas cards. Also that he’s got two sons (I’ve got two stepbrothers!) one who lives in San Diego and one who lives in Beijing. They’re both older than me, by I think around five to eight years, and they’re both MDs. I’ve got doctors in the family!
It’s really weird. I thought my mother and I were permanently estranged. I thought I’d never see her again and I was okay with that. But she was actually fine to be around this weekend. I think my stepfather is a really good influence on her.
And my stepfather managed to instill a curiosity about China and my roots in me. For the first time ever, the idea of touring China doesn’t fill me with a cold, sticky dread. It seems like it might be fun and interesting.
So I guess I got some closure on my rocky childhood with my mother. I didn’t realize I needed closure, but it feels good to have it.
We put my mother and my stepfather onto the Marta to Hartsfield this morning for their early morning flight. I gave both of them a hug goodbye. It was really awkward hugging my mother. It’s like neither of us knew where to put our elbows and arms and stuff. But then I hugged my stepfather and he kept grinning and grinning afterwards. I don’t think he expected it. I told him I was glad to have him in the family, and I really, really meant it.
I actually enjoyed their visit. Huh. Shouldn’t that be a sign of Armageddon or something?