十二

June 8, 2011

Dad, my new roommate, came home Monday night. During a homemade dinner of zha jiang noodles, we watched a cooking reality show in which an Asian lawyer pleaded (argued) her way into one of the final competitive spots, and in which a round Hawaiian chef belly-bumped his friend when he too was offered a spot. His jet lag isn’t so bad. Dad’s, I mean. He pointed out that to get such a round belly shape, you have to eat a lot. I nodded. Then I signed him up for a computer class at the Flushing library, and showed him an e-mail I’d sent to Mom about a movie I’d seen last month, about a family making dumplings. He seemed interested in Google Translate, and soon, upon my suggestion, we took out our notebooks to write each other little stories, and have agreed, via pinkie-swear, to write something for each other every day.

My father’s first story for me:

你好 ?最近忙嗎,爸爸好想你,還有姊姊她(他)們。。。

今天久氣很悶熱,早上出去運動回來。整個衣服都諢透了。此時(阿公)已在客听等我買早桌給他吃。你媽媽祝:炔去洗個澡,把衣裝挽了,出來吃你的燒恓,由條!

父字

Here is Google’s mistranslation:

Hello? How is it going, I miss you Dad, and sister if she (he). . .

Today, gas is very hot for a long time, morning, movement back out. The clothes are thoroughly nickname. At this point (Grandfather) has bought back off the table waiting for me to listen to him eat. I wish your mother: acetylene to take a bath, pull out the clothes, eat your burning out of troubled by the article!

Parent word

Some errors are my fault, as I’m sure I’d transcribed a few of Dad’s penciled words incorrectly. For example, “burning out of troubled by the article” at the end should be “sesame bread and crullers” (a favorite snack). I’ve asked him to use a pen from now on.

Here’s my story for him:

When I was ten years old my father’s hair turned white. I saw it happen. Well, no, I didn’t. That is, one night I hugged him good night and went to bed, not realizing I would not be seeing his crisp black hair again for another week. The next morning I crept into his room to wake him up. What did I see? I saw a head of white hair! I wondered what kind of terrifying dream he’d had that night that had made his hair turn white. For a long time afterward I was afraid of sleep.

The translation for the word “crisp” in Chinese is “脆.” Dad said that “脆” was not the right word to describe hair. What could I have meant by it? Why would I describe hair as thin and hard, easily snapped—brittle? I don’t know, I said. I’d made a mistake, I said.

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