Suegra has gone to visit her other hijo. She left on a flight to Arizona on Saturday morning and will be gone for a few weeks. The night before she left, we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Everyone was getting along for the most part. I think we were all trying extra hard to be nice, knowing that in less than 24 hours, we could all relax and enjoy some time apart. (Suegra included, since I guess living with me is stressful to her, though one would ask why she subjected herself to it when she has the option to go elsewhere.)
We ate our meal, enjoying conversation between bites, and then came the bill and a handful of fortune cookies, as is the custom. (The American custom, that is, since most people in China have never even heard of fortune cookies.)
I broke my cookie into pieces and munched on some while unfolding the slip of paper and reading it.
“I don’t think you’re going to like the fortune I got,” I said to my husband across the table.
“What does it say?”
“Passionate new romance appears in your life when you least expect it.”
My husband frowned.
“¿Qué dice?” Suegra asked.
My husband translated and Suegra made a face as if she were sucking on a lemon before taking a sharp breath.
“Ooo,” she said, shaking her head and furrowing her eyebrows at me.
“¿Tal vez tengo la galleta suya?” (Maybe I have your cookie), I offered, knowing how chaste she considers herself.
She frowned at me. “No,” she said shortly.
“No sabes,” I said shrugging, “Hay un montón de mexicanos guapos allá en Arizona.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband frown again, even though he knows I’ve never even been to Arizona so my proclamation that there are “tons of handsome Mexican guys there” is really only a guess on my part.
Suegra sniffed indifferently, “Los mexicanos no me llamen la atención.”
Ah, but I knew this wasn’t true. “¿Y Vicente Fernandez?” I asked, remembering how she looked like a school girl in love whenever the commercial for his CD box set came on TV.
“…Bueno, Vicente Fernandez es otra cosa, pero los mexicanos son muy infieles.” (Well, Vicente Fernandez is another thing, but Mexicans are very unfaithful.)
“¿Crees?” I said.
“Sí,” she responded firmly.
“Bueno, pero yo leí un estudio que dijo que, en todo el mundo, los salvadoreños son unos de los peores.”
“¿Peores de qué?”
“…eh, por… saliendo con otros,” I said, treading carefully.
“Los más putosos?” she asked loudly, in a restaurant that frequently attracts other familias Latinas with small children.
“Bien,” I said quietly, looking around to see if anyone was staring at us.
“Pero tu esposo no es así,” she said, shaking a finger at me.
“Qué suerte,” I said.
“No es suerte! Es gracias a mi! Yo enseñaba cuando era chiquito que tiene que respetar a las mujeres!”
My husband and I exchanged glances, “Look what you did,” he mumbled in English. “Now you got her started.”
“Esta bien,” I said, “Pero él tiene suerte también.”
“¿Porqué?” she said, looking genuinely confused.
“Porque yo soy una mujer fiel, pues?”
Suegra considered for a moment, the possibility that her son was actually lucky to be married to the gringa she disliked so much. She shrugged.
“Sí,” she mumbled in reluctant agreement.
We sat for a minute in silence, waiting for the niños to finish eating. I smiled, feeling victorious that I had finally gotten through to Suegra. Now she realized that yes, her son was a tesoro, por cierto, but I am one, too.
That contentment only lasted a moment. Suegra suddenly perked up.
“Tenemos un dicho en El Salvador,” she said, “Los hijos de mi hija, mis nietos son. Los hijos de mi hijo, a ver de quién son.”
Suegra then began to laugh, and laugh and laugh.
Note: Apologies to English speaking readers. I tried to include a translation of all that was said in Spanish but it was interrupting the flow of the story. If you are truly curious to understand this one, try viewing a translation of the page from Google Translate. It isn’t perfect, but you’ll get the idea.