returning to Canada from China last year - and missing all my friends in that beautiful
land so much - I have had some comfort here with family gatherings at all our special Western
met Barbara Ann again on Good Friday of last year, and also visited with her husband, Eldon,
and her aged father Robert in their Vancouver home.
Since then we have celebrated our own birthdays, the birthday of Eldon, Christmas
Time, and most recently the birthday of Linda, the wife of Malcolm, Barbara Ann's older brother.
Linda too has a major China link:
her father and two brothers are deeply enmeshed in international corporate business deals in North China, and have been for
I asked if I could come with my new
business partner and great friend Joe Wong, a Canadian Chinese.
"I guess so!" said Barbara Ann, "Come out
to our house before four, and we'll all drive together to West Van!"
When we arrived at four on the button, there were a few computer questions asked
of Joe, who is a real Computer Genius. He designs software for his own company, and
also knows hardware very well.
guys sat down at the computer, while Barbara and I did a few last minute chores in the
kitchen; preparing dinner for her dad who is 85 and needs daily care, and wrapping our
gifts for Linda in mauve and purple foil papers.
were the first guests to arrive at the small and elegant dinner party.
Malcolm and his two grown sons greeted
us all at the door, and we walked up the steps of their two level home to see the dazzlingly warm Linda still on the phone
with birthday well-wishers.
are the sort of happy and stable Canadian family that my students and friends in China
would admire and identify with.
grown sons are serious and handsome young men who share the respect of Malcolm for his
gentle and effervescent wife, and yet are equally close to their caring and sober father.
The wine was plentiful, and also featured
delicious non-alcoholic wine, which I alternate with the real stuff, so I can drink more!
Barbara and I gave our gifts of scented
candles and best-selling books to Linda - one a mystery by Mary Higgins Clark, and the other the heart-touching autobiography
of Heather McCartney, the wife of Paul.
are not a very wild group, facing major economic recession in the province of British Columbia,
in spite of what the media here say about some illusory economic boom.
(Yes, to real estate and tourism, no to
many other professions.)
second floor living room was almost similar to equivalent rooms in China now: white and
beige furniture, the three over-stuffed chairs placed equidistant from one another, forming
a square with the large loveseat.
patriarch of the family is a gourmet cook, and he was occupied doing most of the food preparation
as he loves to do that - finishing a lasagna that was the best I have ever eaten.
It was so good that it was almost another
type of dish; maybe it was the type of cheese used. We sat down formally, nine of
us, at a large dining room table, and also ate a buttery de-boned chicken and a large salad,
also beyond a normal salad in its tastiness. The lettuce was shredded like cole slaw, and
the vegetables clear of heavy dressing.
and I share an interest in New Age metaphysics and were overjoyed to discover we had both
been thinking about
the entire week before her birthday party. We dwelt on what a wonderful word it was, signifying
both physical and spiritual grace.
wanted also to do her astrology chart and she told me the city where she was born featured
the word grace in her day of birth.
debated at our end of the table as to where there would be a Birthday Cake as the food
was so rich and filling, and I was certain that there would be!
A rich Black Forest Cake was served, with a very chocolate-y taste and real whipped
cream. Coffee and tea and a very strong liquour with tiny bits of orange peel in it.
One of the sons played us classic rock
songs on the guitar he had received for his own birthday the year before.
The House Of The Rising Sun was one
song we almost all knew the words to - and though the imagery of the young runaway doomed
to return to New Orleans
wear my ball and chain
was unexpected in that setting, a happy time was had by all, and we parted hopeful
of the next time we would be all together again.
Gabriel, Vancouver, March 19, 2005.