There have definitely been times in my life when I would have welcomed someone stealing my mother (oh, don’t get offended, you know you are thinking the same thing, and besides, she would say the same thing about me). But this was not one of those times.
My parents came to visit me in China for Spring Festival in 2005. We toured Beijing and Xi’an for a few days before returning to my city. This was around the time of Lantern Festival, and my father was especially excited about the fireworks. Much to my dismay, my Chinese boss took him out one day to purchase some, which he then brought back to my apartment to store until that night (why yes, Dad, just put those huge boxes of fireworks here in my spare room, that’s the best, safest place for them).
Finally, my parents, my boyfriend at the time, and myself all bundled up to go out to the square near our house so that the guys could light their fireworks. Mom and I shivered and chatted, while the guys squealed with delight at each explosion and devised ways to set off as many car alarms as possible from the sound waves. At some point, while the guys were giggling with a group of neighbourhood boys, an older couple and their adult daughter wandered through the square. Surprised to see a group of foreigners, they stopped to stare and eventually try to chat with us. Luckily, the daughter spoke a little English, so we could communicate a bit.
After establishing that I lived and worked here and that my parents were visiting from Canada, the older woman became really interested in my mom. She really liked the maple leaf lapel pin my mom had on her coat, so mom ended up giving it to her.
This being China, she couldn’t just accept a gift like that without offering something to us in return. So her solution was to grab my mom by the arm and start dragging her off. I didn’t know where she was headed or what she wanted, but I knew that it was nearly 11 at night, and that we had a train to Beijing to catch the next day so my parents could return to Canada. This old lady stealing my mom in the middle of the night was NOT part of the itinerary!
After a lot of poor English (on their daughter’s part) and poor Mandarin (on my part), we discovered that she simply wanted to take my mom to their house for tea. As lovely as the invitation was, we still had to decline, since we had an early morning the next day (and we didn’t know these people from a hole in the ground!).
My parents made their flight and arrived back in Canada, safe and sound – but I maintain only because of my heroics that night!