Belated Chinese New Year (#275)

My husband is Chinese-American.

I’m so white looking, I make a point of assuring any new neighbors of color that I did not vote for Trump.

Our son took after me.

Occasionally, an Asian-American woman would ask me if Baby D’s father was Asian, but no one ever appeared to be surprised that I was his mom.

It was different for my husband. He took Baby D to the grocery store when Baby D was about 2. An old white man got in Andy’s face and asked, “Is that your son?”

Andy said, “Yes.”

The old white man snorted and said, “He don’t look a thing like his daddy!”

Andy replied, “That’s because his white mama traded up races.”

(Okay, no, he didn’t really say that. Or even think it. That’s just what I wish he’d said. Maybe the guy would have had a heart attack and there would be one less racist in America. Andy, of course, just wishes he’d decked the guy.)

Like many first generation Americans, Andy turned his back on all things from the old world. He wouldn’t speak Cantonese. He cooked American/ European cuisines, only buying his first Chinese cookbook after we got together (when he learned I loved hot and sour soup).

Between Andy’s disinterest in Chinese culture and the fact that Baby D was raised by an uptight, white, stay-at-home mom, it’s probably not surprising that Baby D grew up feeling “white”—even though his last name ended in Wong.

In preschool, when Baby D’s diverse class discussed heritage, Baby D’s best mate Nate said, “And you’re Chinese.”

“No, I’m not!” Baby D replied. On the way home, Baby D told me how funny it was that Nate thought he was Chinese.

“But you are,” I told him. “You’re actually genetically more Chinese than white.”

“What?” exclaimed Baby D. “I’m Chinese?”

I sighed. “Yes. And I am a parental failure.”

*****

Now, you can argue that Andy should have been the one to teach his son about his Chinese side of the family, but that’s asking a lot from someone who learned early that survival depends on assimilation. Plus, Andy never cared about American holidays, let alone Chinese ones.

If Baby D was going to learn anything about China, it was gonna be up to me.

Well, me and all the AMWF bloggers in Asia–Jocelyn Eikenburg, Marta, Mary, Susan Blumberg-Kason, and many others who no longer post. They taught me about Chinese traditions like Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn festival.

I found and bought mooncakes in September. We ate them by moonlight on the patio and I told Baby D (and Andy) the different versions of the story of Chang’e.

A selection of red envelopes.

I ordered red envelopes for Chinese New Year and stuffed them with crisp bills. (This began Baby D’s love affair with cash, but that’s another post.)

I persuaded Andy to make nian gao, the one dish he remembered form his childhood.

We found a dim sum place within a few miles that Andy grudgingly pronounced “acceptable.” Baby D discovered nai wong bao and pronounced it “awesome.”

I showed my son lion dances. He loved them.

I got him training chopsticks. He hated them.

Last year, I ordered a few decorations for Chinese New Year: a red tablecloth, some double happiness trivets, a lantern, and a flag. Hopefully the characters on the flag and lantern don’t say, “Ha! Stupid white people will buy anything!”

I told Baby D stories about his great-grandmother, fleeing the communists with her lead-lined teapot.

I tried to get Baby D’s Nai-nai to tell him more about the ghost festival and other superstitions, but she protested that their family was Christian and didn’t do any of that nonsense.

Some parents put their kids in Chinese school on the weekend, but my kid threw a fit at the idea of school instead of sports.

He did eventually announce that Mandarin would be his elective in public school.

I hugged him and exclaimed, “It’s so awesome that you want to learn more about your heritage!”

“Uh-huh. The older kids told me that the teacher has parties for all the holidays! With treats!”

Not exactly the rationale I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.

Perhaps someday he’ll be able to tell me what the characters on my lantern mean.

Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Once upon a time, my future husband gave me thoughtful, expensive presents. On one of our early dates, we rode an elephant together (before we knew better, sorry, wildlife defenders everywhere). Elephants had been my favorite animal as a child, in part because “elephants never forget.” Not being forgotten is the childhood fantasy of every middle child in an enormous family who has been left at school, ballet, or the Trailways bus station.

Andy didn’t forget why I loved elephants or our date. Andy got me a gold and emerald elephant pendant for Christmas that year.

Andy learned I liked old-fashioned, unique jewelry. He found an Edwardian ring design and worked with a jeweler to have it modified and cast in platinum for an engagement ring. 

I said yes. Eventually

Continue reading Andy’s Guide to Gift-Giving (and Marriage) #245

Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

I was raised by a liberated woman and a man who believed his daughters should mow lawns, change tires, and have the same curfew as their older brother.

My sisters and I crushed in academics no less than my brother. We were better singers, better dancers, and better athletes. Also more popular. (Sorry, Big Bro!)

NASA came to my schools seeking women astronauts. They told us women had better reflexes than men, handled G-forces better than men, and coped better in close quarters better than men and please could we girls consider being astronauts?

I never understood why a person should be more valued because they were born with a penis. I mean, having a penis means you’re kind of fragile and likely to die earlier than a woman.

Continue reading Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

In my childhood house of a thousand siblings, there was only one day more exciting than Christmas.

My birthday.

On my birthday, I got to sit at the head of the breakfast table and preside over a plate of powdered doughnuts with candles. Powdered doughnuts might not seem very exciting compared to the Krispy Kremes and Voodoo doughnut delicacies of today, but back then they were a huge treat. Especially to a kid in a big family on a budget. Continue reading West Versus East: The Birthday Edition (#219)

Many Mothers. No Mom (#131)

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The Aisle of Pain

It was the year after Andy and I got married. It was the week before the United States would indulge in an orgy of brunches and flower arrangements.

Mother’s Day was coming at me. Much like a Mack truck. Of manure. Continue reading Many Mothers. No Mom (#131)

The Daughter-in-Law Tea Ceremony (#100)

Not actual Tea Ceremony teapot. (Actually teapot under a house in Honolulu.)
Not actual Tea Ceremony teapot. (Actually teapot under a house in Honolulu.)

So this is my 100th blog post! Imagine confetti everywhere!

I’m shocked. I mean, not shocked I’ve written approximately 400 pages. All y’all know by now that I’m a loquacious monster with polysyllabic tentacles. Standard blog posts are apparently a page or less. Mine are more like 4. But that’s fine. I take pride in the fact that my blog is for people with above average powers of concentration (or possibly extra-long train commutes). Continue reading The Daughter-in-Law Tea Ceremony (#100)

Gifting East: Part II…Because Part I Was, in Fact, a Fail (#87)

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After much prodding, Andy finally read my post on the difficulty of getting his mother a present. He snickered, told me it was funny, and asked when I was going to write Part II.

I said, “What? There’s no Part II. I win. End of story.”

Andy said, “Not exactly.” Continue reading Gifting East: Part II…Because Part I Was, in Fact, a Fail (#87)

Gifting East (#86)

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I’ve seen quite a few blogs about the pitfalls of intercultural gift-giving. One Chinese-Canadian woman overwhelmed her new boyfriend’s parents with “over-the-top” gifts. Western blogger Ruby Ronin nearly drowned in food and red envelopes from the parents of various Asian boyfriends.

Meanwhile, I lived in a veritable gift vacuum. I received NO RED ENVELOPES from Andy’s Chinese-born parents. Continue reading Gifting East (#86)