Friday, August 28, 2009


Last Saturday, I ran into two of my students from this past school year.

They traipsed into the sushi take-out place screeching, "Ohmygod noway," and we had a great conversation. They oohed and ahhed over Wendy's cuteness while we all waited for our food. They were fashionably dressed for a party; I was schlubbing around in jeans, a purple fairy tee shirt, and beat flip-flops. I poked myself in the eye while their backs were turned to subdue the awkward self-conscious nausea that was creeping into my throat. (Sometimes I need a stab of searing eye pain to remind me that I am not actually still in high school too.)

My order came out, and I was mid-silent-sigh of relief when Carl came tearing through the door with his crazy eyebrows and a bag from the new grocery store across the parking lot. The crazy brows indicated that he had purchased something awesome and that I should look in the bag. "Giant beers," I said, peering into the bag.

"Giant Japanese beer! From a grocery store! In Pennsylvania!" He did a little hop-jig of joy. Carl's hair was even excited about this discovery. It was all escaping from his ponytail and giving him a very distinct mental-patient halo.

(A quick aside: I am totally on board this celebration boat. Despite the fact that most other states allow it, and that PA has recently begun to build casinos, we are still not allowed to buy a bottle of wine or a six-pack in the same building where we buy lunch meat. We are all held hostage by Quaker/Olde German/Mennonite wisdom, which tells us that placing alcohol in a grocery cart right next to pancake mix and laundry soap will surely lead to drunken laundry and pancake parties. And then it's only a matter of time before the incense burning and wife-swapping begins. Only a matter of time.)

Anyhow, I could feel the spark of interest at my back. I could hear the girls putting this picture together for their friends later: "She said that she wasn't sure if she was coming back to school this year. I wonder if they fired her. She was wearing a tie-dye tee shirt and had a bag full of 40's. I think her husband is a war veteran, or something." I hustled my kid and Crazy Brows out of there, trying not to trip over the ruin of my already-thin professional veneer on my way out the door.

We ate dinner at home, at the coffee table. I very effectively drowned this encounter in sushi and Japanese beer. Carl told me a great story about he and his friends getting drunk with a sushi chef in California a long time ago. In this story, the sushi chef told his own stories about living in Japan, and everyone perfected the art of yelling "KAMPAI!" in a hearty, throaty voice while drinking beer and eating raw fish on rice.

Now, a week later, Wendy is still telling us that we need to yell "KAMPAI!!" before we take a swig of anything. Because she's awesome. Because it's good to bring your children up in a culturally diverse household. Because I did such a good job last week yelling "KAMPAI!" into the the void where my job should be before every chug of Japanese beer, that Wendy now thinks of this as the proper way to indicate her approval for any and all beverage at hand.

I can live with this development.