On Saturday the grapevine on our street sent word that my neighbor’s son Jaeger was looking for me. Jaeger had been out driving in his car, and saw a table in the trash. Jaeger recalled hearing (on said grapevine) that Neighbor Mary was looking for a bookshelf. Would this table fill the bill?
Mary was in fact looking for a bookshelf. This room holds a collection of Orthodox and Catholic textbooks inside various mismatched plastic drawers swiped and scrubbed from furniture thrown in the dumpster. It would be nice to have a steady piece of furniture so the books don’t spill and hit my toes. I contacted Jaeger right away, asking him where I could go find the table. But in the 90-something degree heat, he devised his own strategy: he would drive me to the table, see whether it passed muster, and if so he would drive it back.
In the hot sun, Jaeger opened the car hatchback, rearranged a few items, then inspected the table with me. “Does it seem to you,” he asked, “that this glass pane is detachable, or is it all in one piece?” I tapped on the glass top and attempted to jiggle it around, but found that it remained firmly in place. With confidence I assured him that the glass pane was attached, and could be moved easily as one piece with the table.
Jaeger contemplated the table from several angles. Gently and carefully he lifted the glass pane right out of its niche, and set it far forward in the hatchback on some soft material. This is why the glass ended up nested comfortably in his car and then in my home instead of in a zillion fragments all over the street. Then he hoisted and turned the table just so, to fit. He drove it to my building, and took it out of the trunk. I prepared to lift and swing it by one corner after another to inch it up the walk and all the way down the hall. But Jaeger parked, took out the table, replaced the glass, and carried it all the way up to my studio. That’s a whole lot of upstanding behavior, and I was very grateful for his help. As at least a token of thanks I sent him home with a jarful of red beans and brown rice. Then on the off chance of bedbug activity I set the glass in the sink, got the table right into the bathtub, scrubbed it down, doused every inch and crevice on all sides with pot after pot of scalding water, buffed it dry, set it out to bake hard in the sun, and then brought it in. I soaped and rinsed the glass top, gave it a good polishing, and set it into place.
Here’s the table tonight, looking all elegant like an instant heirloom. Maybe it’s too nice to be loaded with books? That’s a 25-cent crocheted doily from the needle exchange thrift shop, a glass bowl from the garbage cage, and Captain Wing’s last two gladiolas of the year, which of course he cut off and gave away. That table really lights up the whole studio. Thanks to Jaeger!
In other news, yesterday a lovely gracious young woman wearing an N-95 mask met me on our street and thanked me for the donation of daehwong, the Chinese medicinal preparation in a jar. I stood there with a friendly but clueless smile listening to her very warm thanks and appreciation. After our conversation I stood there, hand on forehead. That’s life with prosopagnosia! Who was this lovely lady? What kind of food was I passing out around the neighborhood? What was daehwong again?
This is why I don’t drink.
Walking home, I remembered what daehwong was. Eureka! Of course. I’d made a big batch of rhubarb, carried some to a co-worker and some to an old friend, and went to share some with Angelina. But Angelina was leaving on a trip. So I slapped a note on the jar with its English name and Chinese botanical name and the note “Add SUGAR!” and gave it to Angelina’s neighbors instead. That family and I were on a hello-wave basis as we met in passing now and then while I took out my compost. Yesterday was the first time I’d seen the mom out of context, away from her family, and wearing an N-95 mask. So the mystery gift was stewed rhubarb!
“So that Chinese medicine,” I told Captain Wing, “was what we Anglo Americans just call an ingredient for pie.”
“Mary!” Captain Wing adjusted his glasses and gave me a serious look. “Rhubarb IS Chinese medicine.” He explained how to compound the roots, and how they are used.
Captain talked to me while inspecting the plants with a flashlight, watering in the dark and checking for slugs. I was out there to bring a treat for the Wing family. That day at our open air market, there were fresh apricots just over the hill of ripeness for 50 cents a pound. I blanched them, and blended them with tahini, rice milk, banana, and a dash of organic sugar. It really tasted good, an attractive orange creamy fruit sauce with a light bright taste. I explained to Captain that the fruit sauce was to celebrate the eighth day of the eighth month. My impression was that in China the number eight is good luck, two eights are better, and that their double-eight holiday called for a treat.
Then I brought it to their kitchen entrance and knocked. Mrs. Wing opened and lit up with a happy smile. I handed over the fruit treat. “Bā Bā Kuài Le!” I hollered at her, waving my arms in enthusiasm. “Happy Eight Eight!”
Mrs. Wing looked at the apricot puree, gazed at me, blinked, and called a soft question over to Captain. In a short conversation, he apparently explained to her my line of reasoning. She thanked me kindly, and wished me a good night.
As I headed back to my building, Captain Wing took the flashlight and followed behind me, lighting up every step as I walked up the garden path. “Psalm 119 says that God’s word is a lamp unto my feet,” I told him. “That is why I appreciate your flashlight help.”
I came upstairs to check the internet and learn more about August 8 and its significance. As it turns out, I was a tiny bit right. In China, August 8 really is a big important family holiday. The phrase “Eight Eight” (Bā Bā) sounds a little like “Dad” (Bà Bā), so when it came to assigning a holiday to that date the choice was simple:
I had just wished Mrs. Wing “Happy Father’s Day!”