One rainy evening in 1968, it was my older brother Jerry’s 13th birthday. My dad decided that in honor of Jerry’s 13th year, we would get Chinese food to go from Sun and Rosie’s Chinese restaurant on the corner of East 28th and Burnside, next door to the Chancery Office of the Archdiocese of Portland. Priests and other church workers frequented the restaurant, so what happened that evening was surprising.

At that early chapter in life, I had never had real Chinese food before. All I knew was the Chun King Chop Suey recipe my mom would make that always came with strange dried Chow Mein noodles from a paper can.

My dad came home from Sun and Rosie's that night with a sack full of steaming boxes of Chicken Chow Mein, Chop Suey, barbeque pork and rice. It was a treat for all and after dinner, from the bottom of a noisy white sack, he distributed the fortune cookies with mysterious, elusive fortunes inside.

My brother Jerry, the birthday boy, looked puzzled after he opened his cookie and read and reread the fortune inside. He then turned to my mom and quizzically asked, “Mom, what’s a prostitute?”

My mother, a fine Catholic woman, was taken aback. She asked Jerry why he wanted to know. “Well,” he replied as he looked back down at the fortune in his hand, “because my fortune tells me I’m going to meet one.”

As my dad started to laugh and proceeded say something that he knew would really irritate my mom, she reached across the table and blurted out, “Give me that!” She snagged Jerry's fortune and hid it in the pocket of her apron.

“But what's a prostitute, mom?”

“Never mind, Jerry. Finish your dinner.”

“But mom, I already did.”

Van der Hout, a graduate of All Saints School, lives in Southeast Portland.