GUEST COLUMN: “Crazy Friendly Asians” and a ‘crazy’ American woman

Playwrite Nancy Carlson's play "The Majic Pebble" is being produced by the Fort Wayne Youtheater.

Several years ago, it would have been considered racist to refer to a group as “Crazy Rich Asians”, but with the advent of a very successful movie by that title, it’s not only acceptable, but humorous as well. With that mind set, I would like to tell you about some crazy friendly Asians we met on a recent cruise to Alaska. (I am not trying to be a name dropper about cruising, like a crazy rich American; but this was my first cruise, and I’m still trying to digest the whole event.)

One evening, in one of the smaller cafes aboard ship, there was a family of 16 Asians having dinner together at a long table. Toward the end of the meal, they sang “Happy Birthday” to the “older” man among them. When we were leaving, as a gesture of foolishness, I stopped at their table, approached the gentleman, and sang “Happy Birthday” to him. The whole family thought it great fun and engaged us in conversation. And this is what we subsequently learned in one great conversation: The father’s name is David Lamm, this cruise was a celebration of his 80th birthday, he was originally from Hong Kong, and he has retired from teaching Economics at Macalester College in Minnesota.

His wife (their mother) had died 6 years ago, but they had had 5 children who were all gathered around the table that evening. (His 5 grandchildren were there also, all of them females except one male.) The woman who was the primary spokesperson was a twin and is a dentist.

Her name is Penny, and she introduced me to her husband who is also a dentist, and they live in Oregon. They had met at Northwestern Dental School, the same college where my husband had been a law student. Her twin, Pamela, is a CPA, lives in Canada, and is married to a physician. Another of the sons is a physician, and another family lives in Vancouver. Well, you get the drift … they are crazy, educated Asians. They are also a loving family who appreciate the values their father instilled in them. When I asked the seemingly youngest granddaughter what she liked best about the cruise, she quickly responded, “The buffet!” That really gave me a laugh because of course, that is one of the notable things about cruises … it’s all you can eat all of the time!

Penny and I exchanged email addresses, she took a photo of my husband and me with her father, and we parted company, promising to keep in touch. Next day, I received an email from her saying how much they had enjoyed meeting us and sending me the photo. As chance would have it, we ran into them the next day, we had a short conversation, and the highlight was when Penny stood beside Pamela and asked me, “People say Asians all look alike to them. Do you think we do?” They were not only crazy educated Asians, they had a great sense of humor, love, and family.

It’s odd to say it, but with all the new sensations of my first cruise, with all the interesting ports we visited, this meeting and short conversation was probably the highlight. I was truly amazed at all the different, varied nationalities aboard the ship, the accents, the amount of food offered and consumed, my first sight of a glacier, all of it was overwhelming. But nothing was as reassuring to me as the sight of that crazy, Asian family … loving each other, honoring their father, their mentor … and being so kind to this crazy American woman.