Saturday, March 28, 2009

What does lighthearted mean?

Just think of the last time everything you thought you knew about something got turned on its head. A lighthearted moment because it lightened your heart.

Like the day you discovered who your father was, and you began to wonder who that guy in bed with mom might be. I'll bet you went right in and asked.

As they came up out of sleep and asked you to repeat the question you hesitated, then repeated it in a slightly edgy if friendly tone of voice. Do you remember their reaction?

"Dad" got out of bed first and threw on his robe. He was smiling. Actually, he was glad to be unmasked finally -- no more having to fake it, no more having to "smile" all the time, no more having to remember "the story." What took you by surprise was that "dad" already knew. You thought he thought, like you, that he was your real dad. Mom knew also. Actually, she looked not really angry, just ready to get angry if you started saying things that you had no right to say. You, and you alone, were the one who had been duped.

First off, you change. You like the guy in the bathrobe. Two minutes ago you did not. And just look at "dad's" face -- he likes you, too. Two minutes ago he did not. You were a job, part of the stuff that came with his new wife. You sat in the Radio Flyer, pulled along now by one, now by the other.

To celebrate, "dad" took everybody out for breakfast. Mom and "dad" took off from work, you took off from school. He thought it would be a great idea if you all had breakfast at your favorite Chinese restaurant. So the three of you headed off down 19th Street toward Kings Highway.

When you were seated in the restaurant and looked at the time, 9:30 a.m., you looked at the menu. Where were the breakfast items? The waiter didn't know what you were talking about. What is a breakfast item? They have food, and they can cook it for you. "Dad" got the idea, on no evidence at all, that it was against their religion to cook eggs that way. The wind shifted. The waiter started to try to tell the three of you (by not saying it) that to have barbarian practices imputed to them in their restaurant was a rude and aggressive thing to do. "Many dead body China." He bowed fiercely and shot away. When he returned he was walking briskly, looking at the three of you to see if you had reconsidered everything and had come to correct conclusions. So you pretended it was 9:30 p.m. and ordered dinner. And -- remember?? -- it was one of the best breakfasts you have ever had. Lobster Cantonese. Moo Goo Gai Pan. Ginger Prawns. Lemon water. Tsing Tao beer. Fresh, plentiful tea. Cigars.

While you were smoking your cigars you remembered that time when you were a kid -- like, speaking of "Chinese." You and a couple of kids you hung around with went into the Chinese laundry on Avenue M and tried to buy firecrackers. The Fourth of July. You wouldn't take no for an answer. The angry owners started to chase the bunch of you off. They were angry. They came around the counter threatening to call the police. Why didn't they have firecrackers? I don't know either, but why didn't you just get "dad" to drive everybody out to one of those places (Pennsylvania??) where you could have bought all the firecrackers you wanted right there at the side of the road? Maryland?

By the way, firecrackers are still illegal in the five boroughs.