Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Our Funny Po Po

As linus described, Po Po was always known for being tough. She was one tough, strong woman. One of her big catchphrases (I'll try to spell it out to be phonetically close to how it sounds in her native dialect spoken in mid-China, jiang-bek wa), was: _ng ping ha tze!_, which basically more or less translated to, _I'll ..., well, to be honest, I'm not really sure there actually is a real translation. I guess you could say it roughly translates to: _Don't make me open up a can of whoopass!_. She said that a lot. All the time, even into her later years.

Like linus, I too remember holding and rubbing her hands and feeling their warmth, strength, and smoothness as a little kid.
Taking care of one's skin was pretty important to her. Skin and beauty were both very important to her, but if she thought someone was good-looking, she'd never say so, she'd instead say, _ta pea tze wan koo ye_, roughly translated: Her skin is pretty decent.

At home, growing up she did most of the cooking. It was during the most difficult years when the family was in Hong Kong (as you'll read below) that she was forced to learn how to cook for her family. She was, by no means, a gourmet - she did everything humbly, her rules were to be frugal and conserve everything you can. But, growing up as a kid, I loved every meal of her utilitarian cooking. It wasn't a gourmet meal, but it didn't have to be - she cooked with love. And I remember that more than once, in fact quite a few times, I'd be at the dinner table finishing up my food, exclaiming how good everything was, and that we should open a restaurant, and po po can be the chef! She always laughed at that.

Po Po never learned to drive, and if you've ever been in a car with my parents, you'll know that almost half the time it ends up with my dad driving, and losing his way somewhere, and trying to backtrack while my mother is having a conniption. If po po was a passenger in the backseat when this happened, she'd recognize this as the signal that we were lost, but she'd never understand what the big deal was about being lost in an automobile. Can't you just roll around endlessly until you find something you recognize? _Cha ha che!_ (again, in her native dialect), very roughly translated, _just wander around a bit, I'm sure we'll find the way_. You figure this might have been her way to be lighthearted about getting lost, but even before we got into the car, if she wanted to be driven to her friend's house, for instance, and none of us knew the way, and asked her how to get there, her response would just be: _Cha ha che!_

Thanksgiving: She would always make this sticky rice stuffing for the turkey, that was just unreal. It was phenomenal. I was always drooling a week before Thanksgiving.

The first time that Sam (my wife) and Po Po spent a fair amount of time together, Sam immediately noticed two things:

  • Po Po had an unbelievably strong grip, that while it was quite endearing, the way she clutched onto Sam's arm while walking, if it was at the wrong angle, she could probably rip Sam's arm right off.
  • Po Po only spoke jiang-bek wa, and Sam speaks Cantonese, and Taisanese (southern Chinese dialects), so they couldn't communicate very well, but Sam seemed to be able to get a good 40% of what she was saying, but with Po po's smiles and gestures, it was probably closer to understanding 80% of what she was trying to say.

The smiles and gestures always worked out well for Po Po.