I got about 5 hours of sleep that night. I usually have a habit of hitting the snooze button a dozen times before I get my day started, but I resisted and got up. It was around 9am EST, and no one else in the house was up yet. Candy had instructed me the night before about how to let myself out in the morning. As I was making my way to the garage, I bumped into her mom in the laundry room. She smiled and said something in Chinese that I couldn’t understand. I tried to act natural, smiled, and mumbled something incoherent as I headed to my car. I guessed she figured I was one of Candy’s friends.
Before I left on the trip, Maurice told me I needed to get oranges and “herng peen cha”, jasmine tea, for the parents when I show up. I’m not sure why, but he’s more Chinese than I am, so I took his word for it. I knew of a 24-hr grocery store that I came to on my last visit called Metro, and last night, Phil showed me the location for specialty tea shop nearby called TenRen. I arrived at TenRen first, but they weren’t open for another 15 minutes, so I went to the Metro first. Originally, I had planned to buy some navel oranges, but I wasn’t sure how much. I knew “8” would be a symbolic number in Chinese (“ba” which sounds like the word for “prosper”, “fa”), but for some reason, I thought it wasn’t impressive enough. So I looked at the other fruits and saw the smaller Mandarin oranges which were a similar price per pound (or kg since we’re in Canada). I don’t know what compelled me, but I thought about buying 88 oranges. (On a side note, I would hear about “88” when referring to Chinese weddings akin to the character for “double happiness,” ?, which is made up of two copies of “joy”, ?.) I thought about it for a moment, since 88 oranges is a LOT of oranges. But considering I’m in Toronto… by myself… with a stuffed bear… to ask her parents for permission to marry her… which I will… in a stuffed bear suit… I figured I shouldn’t be batting an eye at getting 88 oranges. So I loaded up the cart with nearly $40 worth of oranges, put them all in one of the suitcases, and made my way to the tea store. My purchase at the tea store was more modest with just one box of tea. While I may be crazy enough to buy 88 oranges, I ain’t buying no 88 boxes of tea!
Olvie had called me the night before on Candy’s phone about my arrival time, and she told me her parents were going to be there when I arrived. I parked down the street from the house and walked to the front door with Puddles, the tea, and the suitcase full of oranges. I was expecting to have one of her parents open the door, but it was Olvie who greeted me with the family German shepherd, Jen. Her dad, Rex, was taking a nap, and her mom, Polly, was on her way back from running errands. She slipped me into her dad’s office where I waited until she got her parents together. After about ten minutes of waiting, Polly got home and Rex was awake from his nap. Olvie gathered them outside of the office and told them that her special friend was here. She then called me to come out.
When I was emailing Olvie before the trip, I told her to tell her parents that a friend was coming over to visit, but it would be someone they wouldn’t know. Olvie was going to school further north in a town not as populated with Chinese. So when she told her parents that a friend was coming, she described him as a “friend/potential boyfriend who could be black.” (Olvie, sometimes you leave me speechless.) So when I came out of the office, both parents had scowls on their faces which quickly changed into smiles and hugs when they realized I wasn’t the black boyfriend Olvie was talking about. In the office, the three of us talked for about a half hour about my plans to marry Olwen. We discussed everything from the wedding date to the where we were going to live as well as my career goals. At the end of the discussion, I was happily granted permission and received the blessing.
The rest of the day was spent hanging out with Olwen’s family, but not all at once. Jeremy, Olga’s husband, wanted to play ball that night, so I wanted to spend the afternoon with the parents. Rex needed to drop by the office while Polly and I had a lunch of curry beef tongue and chicken bacon gravy over spaghetti. Afterwards, we traveled to Belfountain which is west of Toronto to walk among the fall-colored trees. It felt really special to be walking and talking with Olwen’s parents especially now that I had gained acceptance into the family. Her dad also got a kick out of Puddles and even made me take a lot of poses he made with the bear. Eventually, the day was getting late, and we headed back to their house where I went to Olwen’s room and filled two suitcases full of all her stuffed animals. After eating a quick bite, we said our goodbyes and I was off to basketball.
The night concluded with basketball, a pho dinner, and crashing at Jeremy’s parents place. During dinner, I managed to contact one of Olwen’s Seattle friends, Kitty, who had moved back to Toronto to meet us up at the house for a photo op with Puddles. Olvie also dropped by the house to visit and take back some of her stuffed animals I had accidentally taken with me. While I was getting all my stuff together for tomorrow, Olga and Olvie decided to go to town with my camera and Puddles. I’ve posted a couple here to show you what I’m getting myself into:
My flight was scheduled for 8am, which meant I had to wake up at some ridiculous hour. It was so early that, when I checked my email after I woke up, my sister, Dara, in Oregon had not even gone to bed yet. Even though it was super early, everyone still woke up to see me off; Jeremy’s brother Mike even made breakfast for everyone. I packed my bags, bid farewell, and headed off to the airport to catch my uneventful flight back home. The rest of the trip went pretty smooth except for that I had a basketball scheduled in the afternoon. I ran into some traffic at the border, but I managed to get to the game right at the tip-off. Oh, and we won our game by the way :).
On a side note, Olga mentioned that a local charity was recently robbed of all its toys. And here was me carrying around two rolling suitcases of stuffed animals getting ready to go on an airplane. That would have been for an interesting story at the airport…
So the hard part was finished, but there was still a lot left to do. I had the stuffed animals, but most importantly, I had the blessing. Olwen was going to be back the following week which gave me some time to coordinate and plan a couple more items. The target date was going to be on her birthday on the 25th, the day before Thanksgiving, almost a month and a half away, a lot of time for a secret to get out. I trusted he people that I visited so far, hopefully they would keep their lips sealed until the proposal.
Or do they?