Darling Husband and I have eaten Christmas lunch or dinner in a Chinese restaurant every Christmas for the past 19 years. It’s tradition.
It’s the best holiday meal of the year. Better than Thanksgiving because we don’t have to clean up the Bob Evan’s mashed potato packages or put clips on the bags of Doritos or anything. We just eat, tip well, and go home.
But even more than the laziness factor, what we like best is that Chinese restaurants are pretty empty on Christmas day. Whether it’s been The Hunan, Bruce Lee, or Li’s Buffet, it’s always the same: no customers.
And that means that we can sit there and sit there (and sit there), jabbering for hours. And that’s the best part about eating Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
But last year! Last year was just horrible.
A week or so before Christmas we were at Li’s Buffet and I mentioned to Jin that we’d be back on Christmas day with some friends and family. Ten of us total. He said, “You’d better make a reservation.”
Huh? I thought it was a little silly, but to humor him, I agreed to make a reservation. Not that it was necessary, but if it made Jin happy, what harm was there?
We’ve lived in this area for 9 years and have eaten a good 7 or 8 Christmas lunch/dinners at Li’s Buffet and I expected it would be much like any other year. Empty.
Last year, we arrived to a packed parking lot. We walked through the hallway from the main door to the restaurant door, and saw people lined up waiting to get in. Every single table was filled. They even had to open the employee break room and put customers in there with the big piles of green beans and raw wontons.
And our table for 10? Due to the language barrier, the girl accidentally gave it to someone else. We had to wait for 15 or 20 minutes, with poor Gerhard’s 900 year old mother about to topple over. They eventually found a chair for her. I think they had to run home and bring back one of their own chairs for her to use.
In the end, we had to sit the 8 adults at one table and Boy10 and Boy7 sat alone at another table.
And instead of sitting at the table for a couple of hours and making jokes and enjoying each other’s company, we had to fill our plates with our elbows being jostled by the crowds and gobble down our food.
By the time we left, the line of people waiting to get in was all the way into the cold parking lot. They were standing by the windows dressed in rags with their noses pressed against the glass, following our chopsticks with their eyes. I gave one famished orphan a sweet and sour chicken nugget on the way out. He said, “Thank ya, guv’nor ” as he broke it in two to share with his sister while they waited.
My plan this year was to go to the restaurant in town that never, ever has any customers (except for take out) and eat our lingering Christmas dinner there.
The problem? Gerhard, Janet, Gerhard’s 900 year old mother, Mom, Dad, Michael, Kim, and their two children are all insisting that we eat our Chinese Christmas meal at Li’s Buffet. That would mean a party of thirteen! Thirteen!!
I’ve tried to talk sense into them, but they won’t listen to reason. It has to be Li’s.
So, what do I do? Put my foot down and take my family to a quiet restaurant, all alone and lonely? Use the force to bend my friends to my will to join me at a quiet restaurant and then feel bad about being bossy and selfish? Or let go of the past and embrace a new tradition of jostled elbows and gobbled food at Li’s Buffet?
Yeah. I agree. Guess I’d better coordinate a time and give Jin a call.
Boy10 has had a cough for 13 days and a fever for 10 days. Today he had a chest xray to rule out pneumonia.
Being that we’ve had to do light homeschool for the past week and a half since he’s been feeling so bad, I asked the xray guy, “Can you tell us something educational about xrays?”
He was happy to oblige. He told Boy10, “When I was your age, I had a hand xray. That’s what started me on the road to where I am now.” It was clear he loves his job. We learned a lot, and the xray guy was sad that we didn’t have time for a longer lesson.