“That’s alright,” she said, her way of saying no. The battle was joined.
“I can’t speak the language.” Neither can I.
“I can’t read the language.” In most of Europe and Latin America one can simply pick the words out of a translation dictionary. Not so much in China. Still, I wasn’t giving in.
All of our childhood Mom dragged us around Europe because “I want you to see it” she would say, keen to take advantage of living overseas as a military dependent and not losing the opportunities most people only ever dreamed of. We locked horns again as I used her own argument against her but she was equally dug in.
“I don’t like the food.” This is Hong Kong, I say, with people and food from all over, including a fantastic German Biergarten I’d been to on previous visits. Tactical mistake: Mom knew all about good, wholesome German food.
“Why don’t you take me back to Germany with you the next time you go?” I pretended to capitulate, said good-bye and hung up the phone then picked it back up and dialed a second number. This would be all too easy.
“When do we leave? What? She’ll go.” An hour later Mom calls me back.
“I hate you.” We chuckled. I knew what or rather who would get her to go and to also be a traveling companion to her while I was at work.
The clinical details of the instinctive human fear of the unknown are better served elsewhere. The simple truth is that traveling to an strange place even in your own country can be very intimidating. Mom, as do we all, feels safe in her world; China was simply more foreign and unfamiliar than anything she'd experienced to that point. I knew, however, that “Take Charge Auntie” would look after them both. One day, trying to be nice, I got more than I bargained for.
“Hey, Mom, Auntie. What’d y’all do today?”
“Nunya!” they both said, breaking in to fits of giggles. They ended up having a ball, so much so that they almost missed the flight home later that week from shopping! Why?
“W-, we went back to that jewelry store we liked but couldn’t decide if we really wanted those two pieces and we went back thinking we’d have time but the manager was late opening the shop and we really did want these last two things and... well, at least we had a good time, right?” Sssssssmooch!
On the carpet before me were two of the women who raised me, heads down and pouting, ankles turning like teenage girls trying to be cute and then wanting to kiss me to make it all better. Mm-mm-mm.
Whaddya gonna do? We went back, of course!