Chinese Food and Star Wars
Summary: Jack recalls eating Chinese Food on the 25th with his family as a child. Written for the @12daysofficmas. Also on AO3 with additional notes and links.
“We got one chicken chow mein.”
“That's mine,” Alicia said.
“Some egg rolls, no shrimp. A beef chop suey, sesame chicken, a chicken fried rice, two orders of spicy garlic green beans, egg foo young, and who ordered the vegetable fried rice with extra mushrooms.”
“I did, papa! Me!”
Bob grinned and ruffled Jack's hair.
“Here you go, Jacky.”
While Bob and Alicia made their rounds to various Christmas parties each year (NHL commitments and fundraisers they couldn't get out of), their true "Christmas" celebration was ordering a ton of food from Mr. Wong's and watching Star Wars. With Hanukkah behind them, and the rest of the city practically closed, the Zimmermanns enjoyed their yearly Chinese food and Star Wars blow out every 25th of December.
“And the lovely Ms. Alicia has the beef broccoli as well.”
“Thank you, Bobby.”
Jack loved this tradition. His friends from the team would be opening presents and going to church, while he would have this time with his parents.
Maman was always so comfy and casual, her hair up in a messy ponytail, settling into the couch with her chopsticks and container of beef broccoli. Papa would set up the living room for their movie marathon and not talk about hockey or be stressed out. They would just be the Zimmermanns and nothing else.
When they lived in Montreal, they would go out for Chinese food with Zayde Eli and Bubbe Esther on the 25th. Oysessen, Zayde would call it.
“It's a day off,” Zayde would say. “Let's celebrate!”
And they would. Jack remembered getting extra almond cookies and eating them while sitting in Bubbe's lap, everyone laughing and sharing stories.
“Papa, doesn't this look like Bubbe's kreplach?” Jack asked as he held up a potsticker.
Bob and Alicia laughed.
“Don't let her hear you say that, Jacky,” Bob said.
“All right, who's ready for some Star Wars?” Alicia said as she took the remote control.
“Me!” Jack called out, jumping in his seat. “Me!”
Jack smiled as the movie began, and he watched Papa feed Maman a piece of sesame chicken with his chopsticks.
“How do you like that eggnog, Jack?"
“Oh, euh, it's good.”
Jack took another sip. It was far too sweet for his taste, but the look of pride on Aunt Judy's face told him it would be mean not to have some more. It was, after all, his first Christmas in Madison as Bitty's boyfriend, and he didn't want to mess anything up.
Christmas songs streamed through the living room as Bittles and Phelps mingled and laughed during Coach and Suzanne's annual Christmas party.
Even though everyone was kind and welcoming, and Jack grew up with a ton of Catholic friends, there was always something about Christmas that made him feel a bit like an outsider. He knew that at Bitty's, that was no one's intention (hell, Bitty and Suzanne had even made some rugelach for him). Still, he suddenly felt like the only Jewish person in all of Madison at that party.
“Hey, sweetpea,” Bitty said, giving him a quick squeeze on his forearm. “I'm back. Kitchen crisis averted! Mama was totally exaggerating. The egg rolls are fine. Here, I brought you one.”
Bitty handed Jack a small paper plate. It was decorated with Santa faces. On it sat one perfect egg roll.
Jack was hit with a deep wave of nostalgia.
Jack shook his head.
“No, nothing. Thanks for the egg roll,” he said with a small smile.
Bitty took the plate, put it down, took Jack by the hand, and led him to the empty laundry room, where it was quiet.
“It's silly. I just suddenly remembered eating Chinese food with my parents every Christmas. I mean, obviously, we didn't celebrate Christmas, but we did do that. Papa would order a ton of food from Mr. Wong's, and we'd eat it in the living room—straight out of the containers—and watch Star Wars movies all day. It was our tradition.” Jack blushed. “I just sort of thought about it.”
“Jack, I'm sorry. Here we are shoving all this Christmas stuff down your throat--”
Bitty held up a hand, “Lemme finish, Mr. Zimmermann.”
“And we didn't even give it a second thought about how it would make you feel.”
“It's fine. I'm used to it this time of year.”
“Yeah, but you shouldn't have to be.”
Jack kissed Bitty. The room smelled of fabric softener and pine.
“This is part of who you are,” Jack said plainly.
Bitty said, “Yeah, and being Jewish is part of who you are. And we're a team, so come on.”
Bitty took Jack by the hand again and grabbed their jackets from the hooks in the living room.
“Coach,” Bitty said as he tapped Coach's shoulder.
Coach was chatting with Aunt Judy's husband, Uncle Pat.
“What's up, Junior?”
“Can we borrow the truck? We have to run to Toco Hill for a couple hours, and then we'll be back.”
“Toco Hill?” Coach asked.
Bitty nodded, and Jack wasn't quite sure what was going on.
“Sure,” he said with a smile. “See you in a bit.”
About 45 minutes later, they were in Atlanta, of all places. Jack noticed the neighborhood they were in had a lot of synagogues and what appeared to be kosher markets. They finally pulled in front of a restaurant called Chai Peking.
“I could totally go for some sweet and sour chicken right now,” Bitty said.
Jack looked at Bitty.
“Bits, what did you do?” he said with a smile.
“Come on, I want you to tell me some more about your mama eating straight outta a carton because that sounds like something!”
“Oh, it was,” Jack began with a laugh. “And Papa and her would always fight over the last egg roll, too.”
“Wanna call them?”
“Yeah,” Jack smiled, “I do.”
Jack opened the door to the restaurant, as Bitty placed his hand on the small of his back, suddenly feeling less alone.