Fortune Cookies and Funerals This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 6, 2010
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If you don’t know where to start, start at the beginning, said a wise man a long time ago. It’s easier said than done. If you’d define “beginning” for me, then maybe I’d have an inkling of where to start. But then again, there are so many different beginnings in our lives, that how will I know which one is the right one to start with, which one is the most important? Is it the day I was born? Is it my first memory? Is it the day Santa Claus stopped existing? Or simply, is it the day my parents had sex that one night in May?
I was an accident, you know. But I like to think of myself as the result of a passionate and romantic moment between two people who were deeply in love. Yes, it’s a lie. The beautiful thing about lies though, is that the longer you keep repeating them, the more they become the truth.
Like that one time when my brother was helping my mom to carry the china to the table, and he tripped and every single one of the plates shattered into million pieces. Have you heard of that? Of course not, you couldn’t have, because it never happened. In reality, I was the one who was carrying the plates. Six, to be exact. Even though they were delicate and soft in their pattern, they felt heavy and rough in my hands. I was walking up the stairs, head down, watching the steps carefully. It’s magic to me how I tripped, but I did. I blamed it on the ghost of our dead dog. He never liked me much. And so I fell, and all the plates that I was carrying flew up in the air creating an amazing ruckus. The only thing that was louder than the shattering of the porcelain was my scream, not to be outdone by the outburst of tears, that quickly followed. Taking two stairs at the time, my mom could’ve outrun a wild cheetah. Her face showed both disappointment that the plates turned into few thousand puzzle pieces and relief that all of my limbs were still intact. She pulled me in into a big hug and bribed me with a pack of bubblegum, to stop my loud wails. Gum was, and still is, my favorite meal of the day.
“Do you have gum?” believe it or not, is the most common question I get asked. “No, sorry,” is always my reply. That’s a lie. I always carry my gum with me, I just don’t want to share it with anyone. And it’s not just your average mint or spearmint flavor either. I always have to have the newest, most tropical sounding flavors. It started off with the usual: cotton candy, maui melon, tutti frutti. But I quickly progressed onto the fancier sounding ones, like elixir, lush, or cobalt. In all honesty, they all taste the same after a while, but still it’s an addiction I can’t seem to shake off. Chewing a piece of gum instead of a hamburger or a hot dog seemed like a perfect and harmless solution. Somehow though, it transformed into at least a pack a day. Yes, it costs me a lot of money, and yes, it makes my jaw hurt after a while, but nothing can beat that intense rush of flavor that reaches my taste buds the moment I start chewing another piece. And so I keep on carrying my packs of gum, snug and secure in the back pocket of my jeans, where the only danger that meets them is an occasional squish or two.
Also in the back pocket of my jeans are three or so fortunes from Panda Express’ fortune cookies, claiming things like You could prosper in the field of higher education and Approach all areas of life with a bold enthusiasm. They are all folded up neatly and hidden in the comfort of my Hello Kitty wallet, where their only companion is a torn up, old two dollar bill. I’m not superstitious. Make me break mirrors, throw black cats at me, and walk me under a ladder. Even try doing all of that on Friday the 13th, I would still walk away with a huge grin on my face. So why do I carry good luck charms around? It’s more nostalgia than the belief that it’ll help me win millions in the lottery. It’s about sitting at a Panda Express, eating orange chicken, and laughing with my friend at the thought of Panda Express in China and Taco Bell in Mexico. It’s also about my mom finding a two dollar bill and giving it to me, even though she needs that luck much more than I do. But above all, it’s about knowing that there are people out there who truly care about me.
Me, that’s who I see when I look into the mirror each day. I hate her and love her at the same time. I love how she always tries to find humor in any situation; I hate how the right thing to say always comes to her two hours too late. I hate how insecure she is, and I love how once in a while, she’s not afraid to admit that she’s scared of life. But no matter how many pros and cons she has, she’s here to stay, and so I’ve learned to accept that. I carry her, myself, through fire and water, through mud and snow. I carry her, myself, through this world as best as I can. I do fail, many times. I fail by dropping that frail body to the cold ground, where it’s an invitation to all the kicks and dirt the society has to offer. And when it starts losing all hopes, starts crawling into itself, I pick it right up, set all the bones in place, dust the dirt away, and I go on, carrying that body, my body, all over again. Because I know, I know that somewhere out there is a place I have to reach before I will turn cold and be carried away in a coffin.
Funerals are not meant to be funny. Some people consider them to be a joyful event, when our souls finally find their peace. Some people view them as a depressing time, when we have to bid that final goodbye to someone we truly cared for. But no person in their right mind would laugh at a funeral, a coffin, or a procession.
Mom and I were driving down Plum Grove Road. The sun was shining and the breeze lazily danced around.
My mom was singing along to the radio, making up the words as she went. And I had my eyes closed, enjoying the feeling of the sun on my face. It was a perfect summer day.
“What is that?” my mom asked out of nowhere, pointing in the direction of a chain of black cars, headed by a limousine and a police cruiser. “Oh, I think it’s someone famous!” In her usual fashion, mom answered her own question, not waiting for my response.
The car filled up with my loud, uncontrolled laughter. Trying to catch some breath, I managed to mumble, “Mom, it’s a funeral procession.”
You will never hear me say that my mom is the best in the world. She’s not, and I know that very well. There are so many little things I hate about her with fiery passion. From the sound she makes when she bites into an apple, to the way she always interrupts you in the middle of the sentence, as if she wasn’t even listening to you in the first place, just so that she can start talking about her own day. But no matter what, I do love her. And not only because she always knows what to say to make me feel better, and not even because she makes a mean lasagna. I love my mom exactly because she is the way she is. And that is more than I could ever ask for.

I carry my mom. I carry her not because she is fragile, I carry her because she is strong. I carry her because she’s the one person I look up to, long to be like. I carry her, because I know that even the toughest rock can crumble like delicate china. And by carrying her, I’ll always be there to piece her back together. To make sure that she’s all right. Because I know, I feel that she’s always there, carrying me as well. And without her, there would be no me. Without her, this essay would not exist.

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