The Joy Luck Club
I often lied when I had to translate for her, the endless forms, instructions, notices from school, telephone calls. "Shemma yisz?" – What meaning? – she asked me when a man at a grocery store yelled at her for opening up jars to smell the insides. I was so embarrassed I told her that Chinese people were not allowed to shop there. When the school sent a notice home about a polio vaccination, I told her the time and place, and added that all students were now required to use metal lunch boxes, since they had discovered old paper bags can carry polio germs. (II.2.32)
I could not tell my father what she had said. He was so sad already with this empty crib in his mind. How could I tell him she was crazy?
So this is what I translated for him: "She says we must all think very hard about having another baby. She says she hopes this baby is very happy on the other side. And she thinks we should leave now and go have dinner." (II.2.76)
My mother has a wounded sound in her voice, as f I had put the list up to hurt her. I think how to explain this, recalling the words Harold and I have used with each other in the past: "So we can eliminate false dependencies…be equals…love without obligation…" But these are words she could never understand.
So instead I tell my mother this: "I don’t really know. It’s something we started before we got married. And for some reason we never stopped." (III.1.84)