Occasionally you'll hear someone say something like "my dog is basically my son" or "when my cat died, it was like losing a daughter" (these are the exact words they say). Typically I will smirk at these sort of claims; I've never really been a pet person. But now I think I can finally understand these inexplicably close familial bonds people can feel towards things that aren't human.
This past weekend, I got an e-mail from my mom that truly shook me to the core. The subject line was "News Alert"; it read: "It appears Chef Chang's is out of business. We found out when we called to order and got a message saying as of 1/31/10, they are no longer there as Chef Chang's and they thank you for 30 some odd years of patronage and goodbye and farewell. Tonight, we are trying China Pearl." Clearly, it didn't take my soulless parents long to move on from the crushing blow, turning to the Pearl without a second thought, but I felt as if, as others might put it, my cherished pet rabbit had just been brutally shot to death.
Chef Chang's House, a Chinese restaurant in Brookline, Mass., was something of an institution for me and my family growing up. Despite the fact that it was about a seven minute drive from my house, we would order in from them about once a week (this is not an exaggeration - we were like the most healthy family ever) and I would always order the exact same thing: sesame chicken and scallion pancakes. Once a year, on Christmas, we would visit in person, typically after an afternoon at the movies, and Chef Chang's was the site of some of our most idiotic family arguments, poorly-thought out ordering choices (the shrimp in oyster sauce debacle!) and weird/memorable fumbles (the time I awkwardly told a waitress whom my dad had earlier berated "thank you for your service" comes to mind).
While I could only offer indignation in response to my mom's e-mail ("IF I HAD KNOWN, I WOULD HAVE ORDERED 10,000 SCALLION PANCAKES AND HOARDED THEM SO I COULD RATION THEM OUT FOR EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!"), my brother was able to put things in context. After the e-mail chain had gone on for a while, comprised of expressions of disbelief and blatant anger, my mom tried to turn the subject to The Who. My brother responded: "Mom, to change the subject from Chef Chang's closing to the Super Bowl Halftime show is the equivalent of segueing from the earthquake in Haiti to how cold the weather is outside."