Originally published in My Crazy Family: Chicken Soup for the Soul, Amy Newmark, compiler. Cos Cob, CT: Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC: pages 43-45.
At night I think about my mother and hope she’s asleep. She’s all alone now in the little town of Golden, Colorado in a house high up on a hill. She and my father had it custom-built after my brother died. It was supposed to be their dream home, a place for just the two of them to fill with new happy memories. Now my mom lives there alone.
I’m out in L.A., so there’s not much I can do —except worry. She won’t move here, and I can’t visit her as often as I’d like. During the day, I worry that she’s out jogging on the winding country road on the other side of Highway 93 and that some crazy guy in a pickup will drive by and kidnap all 102 pounds of her. At night, I worry that she’s awake and lonely, thinking about the people she has lost.
I called a little while ago. She said it had been snowing all day, and her nose was running non-stop. I kept thinking of her, sick and alone in that empty house. I had this little fantasy about how, if I lived there, I’d run out to get her some chicken noodle soup. Then I came up with a great idea. I’d surprise her with some hot-and-sour Chinese soup, just the thing for her sinuses.
There’s this southwestern restaurant on Main Street where my parents always took me when I came to town, and I remembered seeing a little Chinese restaurant right across the street. So I dialed Information and asked the operator to search the Golden listings for Chinese restaurants. But the operator explained the directory search didn’t work like that. He told me he needed an actual name. I kept that operator on the line, inventing dozens of listings for him to check: Lotus Blossom, Cherry Blossom, Forbidden Garden, Forbidden City, Jade Garden, Jade Palace, Golden Palace, Golden Dragon. It’s incredible that operator didn’t disconnect me. When I finally hit on the right name, I felt kind of silly for not guessing it right away: Golden Peach, named for the town of Golden and the official state fruit.
I went ahead and paid the extra charge for the operator to connect me, and I ordered the soup, plus egg rolls, moo shu chicken, stir-fried vegetables and beef in oyster sauce. It was an entire Chinese banquet for one tiny lady. With the snow piling up, I figured she could use the leftovers, plus at that point I guess I was sort of hungry myself. I charged the whole order to my Mastercard, including a tip. Then I just sat back, feeling pleased with myself, and waited for my phone to ring.
I glanced at my watch. I worried Mom might decide to turn in early. I worried about the roads, especially that last steep part before the turn for her street. I hoped the delivery guy had snow tires and four-wheel drive. Maybe even chains. But then I thought about how surprised my mom was going to be. I wished I could see the look on her face.
Sure enough, about an hour later, my phone rang. Mom laughing and making kissing sounds into the phone, telling me I was the best daughter. She told me she had a fire going, and everything was cozy. She was enjoying the food.
Mom told me her side of the story between bites. Turns out my great idea didn’t go exactly the way I’d envisioned. According to her, when the delivery guy showed up, he started pounding on her door. I bet she was blasting one of her old belly-dance albums and didn’t hear the bell. Poor guy was probably freezing. Anyway, Mom got scared. It was night, some man was pounding on her door, and she was afraid to open it. But the guy refused to go away.
So Mom went to the kitchen, picked up the phone and dialed 911. The dispatcher said hold tight, she’d notify the police. But just when Mom hangs up, the delivery guy came around to the kitchen back door, which has a window. When he saw my mother, he held up the takeout bag and pointed at it. “Your daughter in Los Angeles!” the guy hollered. I could just picture Mom standing there wide-eyed in her blue terrycloth bathrobe, mouth agape.
Mom unlocked the kitchen door, grabbed the bag of food, and cried, “You better go right now! The police are on their way!” Good thing I paid his tip up front.
At least Mom’s still welcome at the southwestern restaurant. And if either one of us wakes up in the night, we’ll have something funny to think about for a change.