Archive for the ‘Conversations With My Japanese Mother’ Category

AH: I got a new kitten.

JM: You got a what?

AH: A kitten.

JM: A chicken?

AH: A kitten.

JM: Oh . . . a chicken.

AH: Okay. Sure. A chicken.

JM: How many chicken you have now?

AH: Four.

JM: What? You got four chicken? You must be crazy!

AH: I got a new chicken. The other three chickens were here before.

JM: Four chicken!

AH: Four chickens, yes.

JM: I bet they all climb up on table and do whatever they please. Try climb up on your leg. Complete out of control. So how many chicken you have total? Four chicken?

AH: Four chickens, yes.

JM: So you going to be that person.

AH: I guess so.

JM: Such no-good useless chicken. You can’t even eat it. Maybe you stuff with catnip and roast in oven? Chicken is good to eat!

* * *

JM: Did you hear about Jet Blue flight attendant? He can’t stand anymore and go slide down slide!

AH: Yeah, I heard about that.

JM: You must be spend money all the time flying here and there. And they charge you for everything. You want take bag. They charge it! You want snack. They charge it! You want pillow. They charge it! No wonder you don’t own your own house.


JM: And oh! I such worry because everywhere they have bed bug! And you all the time go stay in expensive hotel. So then you going to bring home bed bug! You better check your sheet before you sleep in it! I tell you. Everywhere you like to go, you end up with bed bug. And can’t get rid of!


JM: When I fly from Japan time, everybody dress up so elegant for go flying. Wear nice suit. And hat. And high heel. Now everybody wear broken blue jean and tee shirt! Or sweat pants! And then I heard about worm come down from ceiling!

AH: What?

JM: Worm! Fall out of ceiling! So-call maggots! Everyone scream to death!

AH: Maggots?

JM: And rat crawling around on floor! I so worry! You promise me you check your seat first before you sit down on plane.

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JM: Oh, you call! I surprise you call. We don’t hear from you for such long time, I don’t know what happen to you! We worry to death! And so I checking, checking all the time weather report where you are, and they say it raining there, and I think uh oh! Maybe you such stupid driving when rain time and have car accident!

AH: If you were worried, you should have called me.

JM: I don’t know if you home or not. Always you go here or there. Who know?

AH: Yeah, but I always have my cell phone with me, so you should just call.

JM: But I don’t want you try talk on phone while driving.

AH: Well then I’ll see that you called and when I’m not driving, I’ll call you back.

JM: But what if you somewhere and other people around? I don’t want everyone can overhear our private conversation.

AH: Um . . . ?

JM: Anyway, I so worry! What going to happen if you slip outside your apartment, and bung! You hit your head! Some professor here last winter go outside to smoke cigarette and she fall down and hit her head! And nobody find her. So she freeze to death! Isn’t that crazy?

AH: Yeah. Kind of.

JM: Anyway, I thought you go teach in Nebraska and afterward maybe just poop out. Your father and I, we went to Cheyenne and all walking walking all day long and complete poop out. We come home and sleep like dead people! So I thought maybe you go teach for ten days and after you been home you complete poop out and sleeping like dead person all this time!

AH: Yeah, I’ve been tired. But I’ve been trying to get a lot of writing done before school starts.

JM: You better! Is doggy-dog world! You have to publish! Or perish! You go here or there all somewhere, wherever you please, so I don’t know when you have time to writing! So you don’t watch out, you end up perish!

AH: Um, I’m a Full Professor? I think that if I haven’t perished yet, I’m probably going to be okay?

JM: Full Professor, but still tonkachi head. Hey!

AH: Yeah?

JM: When you go back teach Nebraska again? Christmas time?

AH: Yeah.

JM: Oh, goody goody! You get to go to marvelous New Year party, don’t you?

AH: Yeah.

JM: But I have to tell you something. Don’t eat Oyster Rockefeller when you go! Don’t eat it! You don’t watch television, so only get so-called internet or whatever. I don’t know if you know about oil spill or not. So I going to tell you. Don’t eat it!

AH: I know about the oil spill. And I’ll tell you what. I won’t eat the oysters if you’ll stop buying meat with hinky expiration dates.

JM: You mean Dead Meat? From the Dead Meat Section?

AH: Exactly.

JM: You don’t buy from Dead Meat Section?

AH: I don’t buy a lot of meat, but when I do, I don’t buy the Dead Meat. No.

JM: Wow! You must be rich! We on social security now. And you know, you such blood sucker. Sucking, sucking all your parents’ money. Have to send you to music school. But hey, guess what?

AH: What?

JM: Your father brought Alaska King Crab and we going to eat today!

AH: That sounds great! Are you going to put a newspaper down on the table and hammer it?

JM: Well, I been thinking very carefully about it, and I don’t want to hammer. I have nutcracker. So going to crack open that way. And guess what else?

AH: What?

JM: I going to use scissors and very neatly cut open and take out whole big piece at once and dunk in butter. No smash. That’s what I been thinking about.

AH: Okay, then.

JM: Yeah. So that’s what I been thinking.

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Mall Wars:

JM: Oh! We go shopping in Cheyenne yesterday! I so tired, I have to pass out and go to bed!

AH: Did you have a good time?

JM: Well . . . I tell you something. I found nice suit when shopping. Such nice pink suit. But have so-call shawl collar, so I don’t know. Guess how much cost?

AH: I don’t know.

JM: No. You guess it.

AH: A lot?

JM: Guess!

AH: A trillion dollars.

JM: Don’t be stupid! It cost over $169 dollars. Can you imagine? Who going to pay that much! People such stupid! Guess how much cut to?

AH: I don’t know.

JM: No! You guess!

AH: Um. $19.99?

JM: Oh! You cheater! How you know that? You just make lucky guess. So I thought I going to show your father. See what he think. Price so good. You can’t beat it! So I hide suit behind all different racks. Way, way back. But I notice woman watching me! So I go to find your father. So I have to looking, looking. And you know your father. He never where suppose to be. Guess what happen next?

AH: That woman bought the suit?

JM: Yes! She watch me to figure out where I hid, and then I come back and she was already at cash register. Now I want to kick myself.

AH: I’m sorry.

JM: So I give good advice to you. You want to buy suit or something, don’t let out of your sight. Or somebody else going to snitch it! Is so-call doggy dog world!

Comfort Inn:

JM: I want you make reservation for us right away before everyone else snitch all good rooms!

AH: Okay. You like the Comfort Inn best, right?

JM: Comfort Inn best one! Although Super 8 have icebox! So when I see icebox in room, I thought goody goody! We can keep all kind of food in there! But we like Comfort Inn. Promise you make reservation now

AH: Okay.

JM: I want it on ground floor. Because your father get cranky have to carry all box and suitcase up stairs. Can you tell them I want it ground floor?

AH: Sure.

JM: And we like be close to front desk. We want that room again. That’s room they put us in before. We like that room. Tell them!

AH: Um, okay. I’ll see what I can do about that.

JM: And we want room with window where we can see out to parking lot. That way we can watch car. And make sure nobody snitch it! And we can watch out window and see what you doing. When you come to hotel we can watch behind curtains and see you! And then we see you go to car afterward!

AH: Really?

JM: Yeah, we can all spy and see exactly what kind funny business you up to! Last time you talking on phone to boy when suppose to take me to grocery store! I see it from window! So then I go outside and make cut throat signal to you and you have to hang up!

AH: Great.

JM: And remember your friend? Penni? We see her drop wine! In parking lot! And it broke on concrete! Just fall out of hands and wachhh! We watch from window, so we know all about it! I think she must go to room and cry because drop such expensive bottle of wine. I think, poor so! I tell her I see her drop wine in parking lot at conference the next day and she make such funny face I know how upset she must be.

AH: Or maybe she felt uncomfortable because you were, I don’t know, spying on her?

JM: Hello! What you talking about! You don’t know anything. Promise me you make reservation now, though! Already almost September and conference already end of October. All room going to get snitch if you don’t hurry. I feel so anxious.

AH: I promise.

JM: Don’t forget!

AH: I won’t.

JM: You always forget!

AH: And yet you always have a room. Funny, that.

JM: Don’t be tonkachi head. I have to remind you over and over again. [Sighing.] Now I have to worry about packing car. We better practice to make sure all fit.

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Regarding the Conservation of Twine:

[While unloading car full of shoulder bags, garment bags, canvas bags, duffel bags, plastic bags, plastic bins, and many, many, many, many boxes for my parents’ three-night stay.]

JM: Wach!!!! You be careful that one! Don’t drop! And no, too close to ground! Don’t let drag that one! Get dirty! Oh, you going to drop it! No! Put that one first! Other one on top! No! Other one!

AH: Which other one?

JM: Other other one!

AH: This one?

JM: No, that one. I think I put something fragile inside. I don’t want break it.

AH: What on earth do you have in there?

JM: I not sure. I can’t remember. Too many boxes.

AH: This one?

JM: No, that one. You put that box on top medicine chest. You put down there! Right there! [Having recently been apprised that overly-sensitive progeny such as myself need self-esteem bolstering, my mother has recently taken to occasionally providing positive verbal enforcement when I manage to do something particularly clever.] Good girl! That’s good job! [Aggrieved.] Oh, I so sweat! Your father! He never know how to travel light!

AH: [Suddenly spotting Fruit of the Loom underwear elastic wrapped around some of the boxes] OMG . . . is that . . . ???

JM: What’s your matter?

AH: OMFG! Do you have underwear elastic wrapped around those boxes?!?!

JM: So what! Don’t have to spend money on expensive twine. Instead, you cut off when underwear get wear out! Just like big rubber band!

AH: [crickets]

JM: Why you make ajapa face? You probably think you some kind of Rockefeller and so careless, buy twine anytime you want, don’t you? No wonder you can’t afford own house and force your own parents stay in motel! Nobody believe when I tell them you make us stay in motel when come visit you!

AH: Yes. That’s exactly it. My indiscriminate twine-buying habits have brought me to financial ruin.


[Following dinner in my parents’ room at the Comfort Inn involving fried chicken, frisbees, and tin foil.]

JM: [sighing] Oh! We ate it! Don’t you wish you eat fried chicken?

AH: Not really.

JM: Here, you put orange in your handbag. And make sure you hide it when go by front desk. Come from continental breakfast this morning.

AH: Um, okay. Thanks. Oh . . . here’s a bunch of condiments I picked up at the deli.

JM: Oh, you good girl! Such smart for once! Goody goody!

AH: Yeah, I thought you might like that.

JM: Hey, where your father go this time?

AH: I think he took something out to the car.

JM: Always! Always have to wait for him! You have no idea what I put up with! I have to pack all sock and underwear and everything and all he worry about is soda pop! And he can’t remember anything! He left fried chicken in the icebox in Nebraska! Can you believe it? I tell him exactly! I say, Don’t forget fried chicken!!! And then he forget it!

AH: Sounds like grounds for divorce to me.

JM: Hello, divorce! You don’t know what you talking about! First somebody have to want to marry you before you know what you talking about divorce! But nobody can stand put up with you! Such drama queen!

AH: Excuse me?

JM: Yes! All big hysteric and big fight all the time! Such kin-kirree kin-kirree screaming all the time! Make me want go deaf. All the time too, famous big slump from your father side family, and then always you never happy unless make big fight!


JM: Yeah, nobody can put up with you. Only your parents can stand you. So you better buy house and then we come and live with you. But you live in separate apartment. And get rid of your brat cats first.


JM: Oh! Here come your father! I have to pick out sock and underwear for stay in Nebraska motel tomorrow! I bet he don’t know what I talking about. He going to give complete wrong answer. You watch. Try to fight with him is like fighting with tofu!!

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Garage Saling:

JM: [Bursting into kitchen, where I’ve just sat down to my morning coffee.] Okay! So you have fifteen minutes!

AH: What?

JM: You have fifteen minutes to get ready!

AH: Get ready for what?

JM: We going to garage sale! You have to hurry up!

AH: Um . . . I’m not going to be ready to go anywhere in fifteen minutes.

JM: You slow poke! Okay! You don’t get to go! We leave you here by yourself!

AH: Okay.

JM: How many minutes you need?

AH: Forty-five. I need coffee.

JM: Forty-five? Hello, forty-five!

AH: Forty-five.

JM: You crazy! Okay! I going to set kitchen timer for forty-five minutes! When it go ching? You better pay attention! If you not ready, we going to go without you, and you going to get left behind!

AH: [Under breath.] What? And miss out on the Hoardy McHoardersons’ field trip to the local garage sales?

JM: What you mumbling?

AH: Nothing!

JM: Don’t talk back to your mother! And hurry up! Timer chooka-chooka-ing!


JM: Don’t leave your bag in cart!

AH: What? I’m not going anywhere!

JM: No! Somebody going to snitch you purse! You such stupid not pay attention!

AH: I’m standing right here.

JM: No! Don’t be stupid! Somebody snitch! [Grabs shoulder strap to my messenger bag and wraps it around my forearm multiple times like a tourniquet.] There! You ave to keep wrap around arm so no snitch!!

At the Farmer’s Market:

JM: What’s that beeping sound again? Sound like peep-u!

AH: That’s my cell phone.

JM: Who calling you now?

AH: Nobody’s calling me. I have a text message.

JM: Whaaa? Sex-u message?

AH: Text message.

JM: Sex-u message? Who keep sending you sex-u message?

AH: Lots of people are sending me sex-u messages. I’m very popular.

JM: They must be nuts! Must be stalker!

AH: Pretty much.

JM: Oh, look! Watermelon!

AH: They’re having a watermelon demonstration.

JM: Hey! Let’s play trick on your father. Let’s get a yellow watermelon and we pretend it’s a red watermelon and we don’t tell him. He going to be so shock when cut it!!! Hee!

AH: Hee! Okay. Yeah, let’s do that.

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JM: Wachhhh! So hot! Your father and I go downtown and I just about sweat to death!

AH: I’m sorry to hear that!

JM: So humid too! Give me heat stroke!

AH: Humid? Really?

JM: I don’t know what going on!! Not like July weather!

AH: Global warming?

JM: Why you talk like such crazy Democrat? Oh wait . . . you are Democrat. You want government steal all your money.

AH: Yes. That’s exactly it.

JM: But you don’t have any money. Don’t even own your own house. No wonder you don’t care government steal all your money!

AH: No wonder.

JM: But my hair! Complete stick to my head, so hot! And my glasses all fog up! And sweat go in my eyes! And your father, he take such long time — he such complete slow poke — make me waiting, waiting, waiting forever in hot car like some kind of dog! I can’t stand it! And then I get a little bit grouchy!!! You ask your father! He tell you!

Sartorial Issues, Redux:

JM: Hey! You wear that nice suit I got you last time you here?

AH: No, not yet.

JM: Yeah, you need do sit up first. Get six-pack ab. Skirt just little bit tight.

AH: Just a little.

JM: So when you going to wear it?

AH: I don’t know yet.

JM: Such nice suit! Suck all my money away! Like money vampire! You better promise me you wear it!

AH: Maybe I’ll wear it at the winter residency graduation for the Nebraska M.F.A.?

JM: Oh good! Yes! That perfect! You do that! Then everybody going to be so surprise! They all say, Who that girl in nice suit? We don’t recognize her? Instead of such hippy looking. They can’t believe it! Don’t you know?

AH: Um . . . I guess so.

JM: Hello, guess so! You wear such nice suit instead of such ugly hippy looking outfit and everything complete different! You wear that kind suit and pull hair back so have swan neck instead of ugly duckling neck and some millionaire Prince Charming going want to marry you!

AH: OMG, are you on crack?

JM: I don’t know what you mumbling about. But okay, you right . . . maybe not in Nebraska. Too many country bumpkin and not enough millionaire. So maybe you have to go on The Bachelorette.

AH: WTF?????

JM: But first you have go on The Biggest Loser!!!!

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and I suspect a teeny bit of hinky-ness with respect to Author Function.

Here is the note from JM:

(My favorite part is the bit where a typewriter eraser was clearly put into action.)

Here is a note from my father, taped to the kitchen cupboard next to the stove at my parents’ house:

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Coyote Eyes:

JM: I don’t like watch that show Bones. That girl, she have funny eyes. She have the crazy coyote eyes. Such ugly. I can’t stand it.

AH: Who are you talking about? Michaela Conlin? Tamara Taylor? I’m not sure who you’re talking about.

JM: Everybody know! She the one! With eyes like crazy coyote! They follow you around like ghost.

AH: Do you mean Emily Deschanel?

JM: Whichever one. Such pale see-through color. Look like some kind of ghost. Like crazy ghosty coyote eyes.

Father’s Day:

JM: Just barely get here, but your father get your card. He thought you sign you name and then put four A’s afterward.

AH: Those aren’t A’s.

JM: I know! I tell him don’t be stupid! But he say look like four A’s. He say, “What’s that? Ah, ah, ah, ah.”

AH: Ah?

JM: I have to tell him no! Those you make drawing of your Brat Cat! With ear and whisker! I have to tell him his daughter make drawing of Brat Cat all over his Father Day card.

AH: Yeah. Tell him those are his grand cats.

JM: Don’t you dare! Your father seed have nothing to do with those Brat Cat.


JM: Those Brat Cat not from his seed!

AH: OMFG. [Hands over ears} La la la la la la la!

Wishy Washy:

JM: I hate that one. I can’t stand him!

AH: Who?

JM: They all go complete gaga about him and say he McDreamy. Hello! He not McDreamy. He can’t make up his mind about anything. First go one way. Then go another. He complete confuse. I can’t believe he brain surgeon.

AH: No?

JM: No! Who going to let such confuse person operate their brain? Why anybody think he so-call good catch? Plus he have rat face. I don’t like it.

AH: Really.

JM: Yeah. Hello, McDreamy! I think he a little bit wet. He complete wishy-washy.

AH: Hmm . . . McWishy-Washy?

JM: Yeah. That’s it. McWishy-Washy.

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JM: Who need cable? See, we wrap up rabbit ear in tinfoil! Such stupid spend money for cable. How much you spend for cable every month?

AH: [Unwilling to go down this particular road.] Um . . . why do you need to know that?

JM: What you make Ajapa Face for? I have to worry about you finance! You spend money like you think you some kind Rockefeller. Not even own your own house. Everybody else your age own their own house! Your own parent come to visit you and we have to stay in motel! I so embarrass! I tell everyone going to visit my own daughter, but she make us stay in motel!

AH: You can stay in my apartment. I’ll give you my bedroom.

JM: How I can stay when such Brat Cat there? E. have house! She you age. She have house and three kid. And she chair your department! E. is Superwoman! I going to have to go stay with E. instead when I come visit! P. have house. M. have house. Everybody have house.

AH: Maybe I don’t want a house. It’s very expensive. And a lot of work. And anxiety.

JM: Yeah. Maybe you too irresponsible own house. But what you going to do about retirement?

AH: I’m on a retirement plan.

JM: But what happen when you run out of money? You should have at least two year salary in savings account for emergency! Do you even have that?

AH: Um . . . no.


AH: Well, then I guess I”ll just have to kill myself.

JM: Who going to take care of your father and I if you kill yourself?

AH: No offense, but I think you’ll both be dead by then.

JM: No. We going to live forever. You have to take care of us. You get rid of you Brat Cat and buy house and we stay with you.

AH: You can stay in the English Department wing of Dakota Gardens.

JM: You stick own parent in Dakota Garden? We go stay with E. then. In her new upstairs. Away from Brat Cat.

AH: E. has two Brat Cats. And you know what? She used to have three!

JM: Such crazy! Why everyone there so crazy? I so worry! How you going to get through rest of summer when don’t get pay?

AH: I’m all set for the summer. I have plenty of money.

JM: How you going to pay for gas to drive home?

AH: I have money for that.

JM: Are you sure?

AH: Of course.

JM: I pack you cold chicken in ice cooler so you have something to eat. And apple. And soft drink. So you don’t have to spend all money like burning big hole in your pocket at Subway. They so expensive! And not give you any meat! But that way you have something to eat so you not starve to death. Okay?

AH: Okay. Thanks!

JM: [Happily.] Always suck parent dry. Just like vampire.

* * *

During Season Finale of Dancing with the Stars:

JM: Where reception go? Hey! You be useful. Go stand right there! No, more left! No, no! What’s matter with you! Other way! Maybe you go play with rabbit ear? No! That’s worse! No, there! Better! Stay right there!

AH: Like this?

JM: Maybe. I don’t know. Hurry! Kristy Yamaguchi going to dance! I don’t want to miss it!

AH: Tell Mikey to put his metal knee up.

JM: Hey, that’s good idea! [To my father.] Your daughter say put your knee up. Get better reception.

Following Kristy Yamaguchi’s Win on Dancing With the Stars:

JM: [Clapping and yelling and making a general ruckus.] Hooray, hooray, hooray! Yay! We won, we won, we won! Nobody can beat Kristy Yamaguchi! She the BEST ONE!!!

During Season Finale of Gray’s Anatomy When Reception Goes Out Entirely During Last Three Minutes:

AH: [Squinting into T.V. static.] Wait a minute. Is Dr. Torres kissing Dr. Hahn?!?!

JM: Can’t you tell? I thought you expert. Publish paper about that kind of thing on T.V.


JM: See? Maybe you not such expert after all.

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JM: That’s red light! You have to stop!

AH: Yeah.

JM: You better stop!

AH: I’m stopping!

JM: Oh! (Clutching stomach.) You stop so hard. Is gut shaker! How I’m going to survive it? Wachh! Look at that. Weather get nice and all kid come out. Like ants! You know, you have such Brat Cat, I think if you have kid they going to be completely spoil. You let do whatever they want. No punish. Completely brat.

AH: Excuse me? All hail, Queen of the Non Sequitur?

JM: You make such bigshot blahblahblah talking so pretend you don’t know what I talking about.

AH: Huh?

JM: See. Don’t make Ajapa Face at me.

AH: What’s an Ajapa Face?

JM: That’s when you make face like you don’t know what someone talking about. But you know exactly. You know that Sandra Oh? In Grey Anatomy? Always she making the Ajapa Face. So no, you listen! Don’t be tonkachi head. (As if I’m impaired.) You . . . Brat . . . Cat!

AH: What about them?

JM: They such bad manner! That one who dead? It want to eat my chicken! I could tell! Try to poke me! It want to run away with chicken bone. Hey! That’s good idea! (Laughing) Next time I come visit I feed all you Brat Cat chicken bone! Then they all choke to death!

AH: Hey! That’s not very nice.

JM: Those Brat Cat don’t how to behave when company come. Bad, bad manner.

AH: Yes, but they have great self esteem.

JM: Who care about such stupid thing?

AH: Exactly.

The Decemberists on CD Player: La di da di da.

JM: Too doo roo doo roo.

The Decemberists: La di da di da.

JM: Too doo roo doo roo. Hey! Don’t turn there! No! Don’t do it! Too many cars drive on that street. It’s no good!

AH: I thought we were going to Safeway?

JM: Yeah, but this way better.

AH: Which way?

JM: I show you. No, not there. Here! Here! Turn now! Turn now! (Socks me in the arm. Aggrieved.) Too late! Go round block so we don’t have to drive on street with too many cars. Your car’s too red. Like big, big target. Everyone going to try to hit you. Make sure you park far, far away from other car in parking lot, too. They want to hit you with their door. And bang you with their shopping cart. And if you don’t double check to make sure everything all lock up, they going to break in and rob you. Here! Turn here!

AH: I have to wait for the traffic to clear.

JM: (Impatiently.) Oh! Now! Jump! Jump now! Oh, you slow poke! Why you don’t jump when I tell you to jump? Okay! Now you jump! See? Oh good! You jump!

The Decemberists: La di da di da.

JM: Too doo roo doo roo. Hey! That’s a stop sign. That mean you suppose to stop.

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