Friday, September 23, 2011

another year, another moon cake

My sweet little trans cultural family will be heading to an Autumn Moon Festival party tomorrow evening. This is one of my family's favorite events. Last year the night included a dance party sandwiched in between the eating of moon pies and the lantern parade. In honor of this important Chinese holiday I wanted to re post an essay I wrote two years ago about my last minute search for moon pies. While you enjoy reading this I will be off at the party, enjoying keeping track of my big four and a half year old while trying to keep the tiny toddler from climbing too high on the playground equipment and convincing them both to eat dinner as opposed to only eating the grapes while jumping up and down. I don't know why, but my boys spend a lot of their day jumping up and down...

Originally posted in October 2009.

The things we do for our kids. Two months ago I emailed the president of the Columbus chapter of Families With Children From China to voice frustration over our membership dues from last year never being cashed. It is time to pay the dues for this year, and we never officially became members last year. And believe me, we tried. I have never had such a hard time trying to join a group- it was worse than a high school clique! So I say this to the new president, nicely, of course, and the next thing I know I am being invited to attend the next board meeting. Apparently, I was not the only one unhappy. As it turns out, though, I was the only one unhappy who accepted the offer to attend the meeting. Really, people. Don't speak up if you aren't willing to help facilitate the change. Otherwise, you are just complaining. And no one likes a complainer.

So I attend the board meeting, and I speak up, and before I knew it I was heading up a play group for 2 year olds and offering to purchase moon pies and jasmine tea for an upcoming event. That was a month ago.

Wednesday I went to Sam's club to buy the moon pies. 100 moon pies. Our membership had expired, so I went straight to the customer service desk to renew it. I waited in line for 15 minutes behind a very tired looking mother of two who were running around the grocery cart in wide circles. So wide, in fact, that I had to repeatedly pull my cart back and out of their way. Oh, and they were screaming at each other as they raced around.

Finally it is my turn. I whip out my expired card and hand it over to the cashier. Who politely tells me that I don't pay at his desk, instead I simply pay when I check out. "Great", I say, pulling the word out of my mouth slowly. OK, that's 15 minutes of my life I will never get back. I turn my cart around and head into the store, straight for the snack food aisle. I push the cart up and down aisle after aisle, full of nuts and candy and gum and good lord, enough toilet paper for a small army, but I cannot find the moon pies. And I cannot find the jasmine tea. I toy with the idea of waiting in the check out lines anyway so I can renew the membership, but then I come to my senses and head out the door.

Turns out, the guy standing at the door checking receipts just in case someone decides to stuff 52 rolls of toilet paper under their sweater is unaccustomed to customers leaving the store without making a purchase.

"I need to see your receipt." (I am not even holding a bag or carrying anything in my arms. Where does he think I stashed my purchase?)

"I don't have a receipt. I didn't buy anything." I keep walking. He takes a step backwards to keep up with me and stops me.

"You didn't buy anything? You don't have a receipt?" (They hire the best and brightest, right?)

"Yes, I did not buy anything."

I won't bore you with the rest of this conversation, all of which took place with me walking out the door. He actually followed me for a few steps. Are we paying more than we need to for our Sam's Club and Walmart purchases because they have to support this position on their payroll? But that is for another day.

So that was Wednesday. I got in the car, and I drove home. OK, here is where the story gets weird. I leave my house the next day, Thursday, to go to work, run errands, have dinner with Matthew and Brad, take Matthew to his music class.... not once does the thought of moon pies and jasmine tea enter my brain. Friday arrives. Did I mention that I need these pies by Saturday?

So I remember halfway through the morning that I need these moon pies. I wonder where I am going to get them. I am picturing myself hitting up every gas station mart in the county, buying 3 moon pies at a time. Oh, and it is pouring down rain. I lament my situation on Facebook and my awesome friends come to rescue. The Wonder Bread outlet store. I would never have thought of that in a million years. Instead, I would have driven to every grocery store in town. I swear there are days when I barely remember those amazing SAT scores....

I call the store and they do have moon pies. I say I need 100. The voice on the other end of the phone says, and I quote, "Well good lord, ma'am. That can't be good for you." Well no, I would expect not.

I wrap up my morning of work and leave the house. At the last minute I grab the GPS. I let it lead me through major construction, 1 mosque so busy that there is someone in the middle of the street directing traffic. Mind you, this person was not dressed as a traffic cop. or as any kind of cop. I think it may have been a member of the mosque. I then pass a catholic church with a real cop out front, stopping me once again. I pass a bar in a house. Really. The hand painted sign out front tells me that this bar just opened, and there are curtains in the window acting as a backdrop to the flashing neon "Bud" sign. The upstairs windows are open and I see a headboard. It looks as though either people still live in this bar-house or they recently vacated. I have never seen anything like it.

I pass the Wonder Bread store because I was still thinking about the bar-house. I turn around, and there it is, like a shining star in front of me. I walk up to the door, feeling quite pleased with myself for averting a moon pies crisis. Then I see it. A sign on the door stating that food stamps are welcome but credit cards are not. Oh, so close. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Should someone paying with food stamps even be buying moon pies?

Sighing, I head back to the car. I think I was muttering to myself a little.... I program "bank" into the GPS and head back the way I came. I pass the spot where the GPS is saying "You have arrived at your destination", and I look around. No bank. I see a grocery store, but no bank. I turn around and pass it again. No Bank. Seriously, I JUST NEED MOON PIES. Why is this so hard?

Finally I figure out that the bank is INSIDE the grocery store. (You already figured that out, right?) I get the cash and head back to store, where I find the moon pies and start loading my cart with boxes. At the checkout the cashier screams- yes, screams, for her co-worker. "The moon pie lady is here!" Wow, now I am the "moon pie lady". Cool. The co-worker comes rushing out of the back of the store and practically runs to the counter. Everyone in the store stops and looks at me. Everyone.

"We have to know why you needed 100 moon pies." Really? If I refuse to tell you will I have to leave empty handed? You HAVE to know?

I explained the Autumn Moon Festival my family would be attending the next day.

"So Chinese people celebrate by eating moon pies?" Yes, we ship them over to China by the hundreds. Dear God. I back pedal and explain that no, Chinese people do not celebrate with moon pies. That they, in fact, celebrate with moon cakes, but that our Chinese children, growing up in America, don't often eat moon cakes so they don't always like them. Which is where the moon pies come in. I am not sure they understood, but suddenly I did.

The trip to Sam's Club, the waiting in line, the road construction, the bank, the questions from the cashiers. A lot to go through for a few moon pies. I probably won't even eat one tomorrow as we hand them out to our children. Our kids will eat these moon pies as they sit and listen to the story of the Autumn Moon Festival and it's meaning in their native country. They will finish them just as the sun goes down and the moon shines brightly in the sky. Those moon pies will just be a memory as our children light their lanterns and walk through the grassy field in the lantern parade that will bring the celebration to a close. It was a lot to go through for 5 minutes of enjoyment sandwiched between story time and a lantern parade. But for those 5 minutes, our children will be so happy. And maybe they will have a better understanding of how their two worlds come together, bumping up against each other every day.

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