excerpt from “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan


So we were shy at first, your father and I, neither of us able to speak to each other in our Chinese dialects. We went to English class together, speaking to each other in those new words and sometimes taking out a piece of paper to write a Chinese character to show what we meant.  At least we had that, a piece of paper to hold us together. But it’s hard to tell someone’s marriage intentions when you can’t say things aloud. All those little signs – the teasing, the bossy, scolding words – that’s how you know if it is serious. But we could talk only in the manner of our English teacher. I see cat. I see rat. I see hat. But I saw soon enough how much  your father liked me.
That evening An-mei and I went to work and searched through strips of fortune cookie paper, trying to find the right instructions to give to your father. An-mei read them aloud, putting aside ones that might work: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Don’t ever settle for a pal.” “If such thoughts are in your head, it’s time to be wed.” “Confucius say a woman is worth a thousand words. Tell your wife she’s used up her total.”
We laughed over those. But I knew the right one when I read it. It said: “A house is not home when a spouse is not at home.” I did not laugh. I wrapped up this saying in a pancake, bending the cookie with all my heart.
After school the next afternoon, I put my hand in my purse and then made a look, as if a mouse had bitten my hand. “What’s this?” I cried. Then I pulled out the cookie and handed it to your father. “Eh! So many cookies, just to see them makes me sick. You take this cookie.”
I knew even then he had a nature that did not waste anything. He opened the cookie and he crunched it in his mouth, and then read the piece of paper.
“What does it say?” I asked. I tried to act as if it did not matter. And when he still did not speak, I said,”Translate, please.”
We were walking in Portsmouth Square and already the fog had blown in and I was very cold in my thin coat. So I hoped your father would hurry and ask me to marry him. But instead, he kept his serious look and said,”I don’t know this word ‘spouse.’ Tonight I will look in my dictionary. Then I can tell you the meaning tomorrow.”
The next day he asked me in English,”Lindo, can you spouse me?” And I laughed at him and said he used that word incorrectly. So he came back and made a Confucius joke, that if the words were wrong, then his intentions must also be wrong. We scolded and joked with each other all day long like this, and that is how we decided to get married.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s