Posts tagged with "family"

(Mis) Understanding Art

Few peo­ple in my fam­i­ly seem to under­stand my art.

When they look at my pic­tures, they make com­ments about the qual­i­ty, or whether or not they’re smil­ing, or ask how much mon­ey I make. It’s nev­er about the mean­ing, or my intent, or what I’m try­ing to express. Only one of them saw what I was going for in com­pos­ing this pho­to of my grand­ma and aunt with the poster in the back­ground.

They also talk through my videos when watch­ing them, when every bit of pac­ing is impor­tant, miss­ing sig­nif­i­cant estab­lish­ing shots.

Maybe it’s the cul­ture. Very few Chinese kids are allowed to be artists, as it’s seen as too risky or imprac­ti­cal. My gen­er­a­tion of fam­i­ly seems to be full of accoun­tants, and engi­neers, pro­gram­mers, or any­thing else with secu­ri­ty. Even though piano or vio­lin lessons are com­mon (I can’t think of a sin­gle Chinese friend who did­n’t take piano lessons at one point), it’s more of a sta­tus sym­bol to be able say that you can afford the pri­vate lessons and instru­ment.

This is prob­a­bly why I feel like I don’t relate or can’t speak to most of my fam­i­ly. When they don’t under­stand my art, they don’t under­stand me.

Grandma's Story

I’ve been try­ing to get a bet­ter idea of grand­ma’s life, so I’ve been ask­ing her as many ques­tions as pos­si­ble in the last three weeks. Her mind tends to drift and she gets lost on sub­jects; lit­tle snip­pets from the rest of my fam­i­ly sort of fill in the blanks. I’ll add more if I can get any­thing else out of her.

Grandma was born in Hong Kong, but she fled to Chiu Chow dur­ing the Japanese inva­sion by climb­ing a moun­tain with her only son slung on her back. For some rea­son, she feels a lot of pride about Chiu Chow even though she was­n’t born in that city, and always points out peo­ple from there1. As a result, she can speak both Cantonese and the Chiu Chow dialect.

Continue read­ing “Grandma’s Story”…

  1. She says she rec­og­nizes them by their faces. []

Old Family Portrait

Old family portrait

I found this pic­ture at my uncle’s house. It is:

  1. Hilarious
  2. Hilarious
  3. Hilarious
  4. All of the above

How weird is it that I did­n’t even rec­og­nize myself. And look at those glass­es! They were my first pair, which prob­a­bly means I was around 14 or 15. Apparently, I was still wear­ing my cal­cu­la­tor watch at that age.

Comfort In Each Other

I’ve been get­ting to know one of my aunts.

Aside from annu­al hol­i­day par­ties where the fam­i­lies would gath­er, we nev­er spoke. But then again, I nev­er spoke with any of the “grown-ups“1, as they offered lit­tle of inter­est to some­one my age.

We’ve become sound­ing boards for each oth­er. She tells me about how she’s approach­ing my grand­moth­er’s treat­ments — the types of ther­a­py, the med­ica­tions, deci­sions on when to go to see the doc­tor — and I tell her about my rela­tion­ships with my mom and dad.

I find it quite amaz­ing that she’s so aware of the influ­ence of Chinese cul­ture in her life. She seems to be adapt­ing to the gen­er­a­tion gap and cul­ture dif­fer­ences, or per­haps keep­ing them in mind, when it comes to treat­ing her own Canadian-born daugh­ter, which is far beyond what my par­ents were capa­ble of. Until I real­ly start­ed talk­ing with her, I believed that all Chinese par­ents were the same; too blind or too stub­born to under­stand how to raise first-gen­er­a­tion Canadian chil­dren.

It amazes me how strong she is. She’s the one who makes sure my grand­moth­er eats, drinks, takes her pills, sleeps, and walks. The one who cleans up after grand­ma when she has to go, but can’t make it to the bath­room in time. She dropped every­thing — her hus­band, her daugh­ter, her real estate prac­tice — to be here indef­i­nite­ly, and has tak­en charge of all my grand­moth­er’s care.

I tried to tell her that I admired her for every­thing she’s doing, but she would­n’t let me con­tin­ue. She’s hav­ing a hard time keep­ing it togeth­er, and is afraid that grand­ma may see her cry­ing and real­ize how seri­ous her sick­ness is. I wish I could give her some relief, a hug even, or just 15 min­utes to let it all out. I guess there will be plen­ty of time for that soon enough.

For now, we have each oth­er.

  1. The par­ties were a chance for adults to sing and talk, so the kids did their own thing. []

Our Own People

It’s been a relaxed exis­tence here. Aside from spend­ing time with my grand­ma when she’s awake, mak­ing sure she eats through­out the day, and the occa­sion­al vis­it to the hos­pi­tal, there’s no set sched­ule for any­thing. I’ve only been to this house a hand­ful of times in my life, but I feel remark­ably com­fort­able. There’s no for­mal need to sit at the din­ner table until every­one is fin­ished eat­ing. There’s no oblig­a­tion to talk to some­one. No one feels the need to enter­tain me. I can nap when I want. I can raid one of the three fridges when I wake up at night and can’t fall asleep. I can walk around in my paja­mas all day. I can dis­ap­pear for hours to write. Like we’re actu­al­ly fam­i­ly, even though I bare­ly see these peo­ple.

My grand­ma tells me feel at home because we’re “our own peo­ple” as it’s said in Chinese. Even though I always under­stood the expres­sion, I’ve nev­er real­ly felt it until now.