To view a slide show featuring images of the author's Mid-Autumn Festival meal, click here.
Yipo stormed through the front door as she always does. Her sturdy hands gripped two bulging bags of produce, and she panted from the weight of the food. She smiled and squinted, examining us from head to foot. Then she shouted, as if we were standing on opposite sides of a busy Shanghai street:
"You've gotten fat!"
"Really, you've gotten really fat!" she repeated, in her throaty dialect.
Coming from Yipo--my wife's great aunt--this is a compliment. In the past, we both have been sternly reprimanded for our thinness. When we used to live in Shanghai, our freezer overflowed with her food. She always delivered it, unannounced and far too early, on weekends. Yipo refuses to own a phone.
Last week I was in Shanghai, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. This year the Mid-Autumn Festival, which celebrates the autumn equinox and the harvest, happened to fall on the same weekend. So, strangely, the political and the traditional came together.
We had come to China to visit my grandmother-in-law, whom I'll refer to as Waipo (why-poh), which means "mother's mother". She is 83 and recently returned to China to live out the rest of her life. After decades in Taiwan and Houston she wanted to be surrounded by family like Yipo, the one who just barged in to her apartment and called us fat.