Monday, June 22, 2009

My Dad

Yesterday was Father's Day and I meant to write this post then but never made it to the computer. I've been thinking about my dad and his influence in my life. As a kid, you never really appreciate your parents and what they do for you. You kind of take your parents for granted. At least that was true for me. But now, I am an adult and a parent myself and can look upon all that my parents have done with a better understanding. So, it is with this improved perspective that I see my parents as amazing people who willingly and literally sacrificed all that they had for their children's benefit.

I can't talk about my dad and exclude my mom because they did it together. They both did their best to provide the basic necessities and more for me and my sisters. The first thing they did was to give us life. Which is not necessarily something for which one usually thank his parents but I specifically want to mention it because I am grateful to be here and to be alive. Being born is the most basic thing about life and it is not a small thing, especially if you're Chinese. In China, you're only allowed to have one child but my parents somehow got away with having three. My mom told me it was because they were in a rural area - I don't know if that meant they weren't watched as closely as those in more urban areas.

Living in rural China, neither of my parents had much schooling. To go to any kind of school, you had to pay tuition and most people ended up just going to school for a few years if they're lucky. My dad got through high school and my mom only attended elementary school. Despite the lack of educational opportunities, being educated was important to my parents. When my sisters and I were born, that was their hope and dream for us.

My dad actually came from a pretty well-to-do family. One of his uncles was a doctor. His father was a computer programmer and his mother was a congresswoman in Taiwan. Unfortunately, he was born in a time of civil war. This was when the Nationalists and the Communists were fighting for control in China. His parents were involved with the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan in defeat. He was just a baby then and ended up being left behind with a relative. Eventually, he was adopted by a couple from the countryside of Guangdong Province. His adopted father had been a teacher. I think he was one of those people who got sent to live in a village as part of the Cultural Revolution. The idea was that to make everyone equal, those who were more middle class had to be retrained to live like the common person. The Cultural Revolution was a social disaster to say the least.

So, my dad was raised by this couple. He and my mom had an arranged marriage, which was very common in rural China. They had three girls - I was the eldest. The other thing about the Chinese is that having a son is more highly desired than having a girl. One of the reasons is that traditionally it is the eldest son's duty to take care of the parents in their old age. If you had a daughter, you had to pay dowry to marry her off and she became a member of someone else's family and took care of her husband's parents. Also, it was considered more important to educate the males. But, my parents only had girls and they thought it was important that we get educated.

When I was about 6 years old, we left the village and moved to a city the the north. My grandfather, my dad's biological father, had found him after years of searching. By then, my grandparents had been divorced, my grandfather had remarried and he and his family had moved to the United States. My grandfather wanted to bring us to the US so we would have better opportunities. This was literally a dream come true for people in my parents' situation. So, we moved to the city while we waited for all the paperwork to be processed. It took two years - that's bureaucracy!

After arriving in the US, the only line of work my dad could do was to work in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant. Today, nearly 24 years later, he still works 12-hour days at a Chinese restaurant six days a week. He had to work to provide for our family. My sisters and I lived in one of the best school districts in the country. We all did well in school and graduated from college. One of my sisters just got a master's degree from Columbia University.

Our lives are immeasurably better because my parents were willing to leave all behind in China. I am profoundly grateful for my dad's example of hard work and sacrifice so that my sisters and I could live the American dream.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Haircut!

I finally had enough of Ellie's hair hanging over her eyes. She wouldn't let me put hair clips or ties in her hair. So, yesterday, I gave her her first haircut. It wasn't easy!! She kept moving and trying to grab the scissors. I had to get behind her and grab the portion of hair that needed to be trimmed. At first I thought it looked okay but now I feel bad. Luckily, hair grows so in a few weeks it'll look a lot better!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Catching Up

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. As it turned out, Charlie was sick on the day of the rescheduled birthday party so I ended up canceling it. It was questionable whether he was contagious at that point but my conscience told me I'd feel bad if anyone else's child caught the cold from him. We did have some fun decorations and many guests were kind enough to drop off the gifts. I was glad to be able to hand out the party favor bags and give away all the cupcakes we had. Charlie took the whole situation in stride and enjoyed seeing guests at the door. He loved his presents and had a great time making little pompom worms with me.

The next day was spent doing laundry and getting ready to leave for our trip to visit Dan's family in Michigan.

We had a blast during our vacation! Charlie loved being with his cousins and seeing Grandma & Grandpa Schmidt along with Uncle Dale, Aunt Julie, Uncle Andrew, and Aunt Cindy. The first few days, we were all able to get away to the coast of Lake Michigan. The whole crew, except the grandparents, got to stay in a beautiful house in the woods. It was just a joy to spend time together doing simple things like cooking, chatting, playing, and going on walks.

One funny story we'll be able to remember years from now is how Ellie got scared of one of her cousins. They're both about a year old and he's very loving so he was always coming up to her trying to give her hugs. She wasn't used to that kind of attention from someone her size so she would cry every time he got close or if she saw him. Near the end I think she kind of decided it wasn't that bad.

Later in the week, we were able to visit a children's museum I'd heard rave reviews about. The kids loved it so much, it was hard to tear them away after a couple of hours.

We also got to visit our favorite gardens in Midland. It's always on our list of places to see when we're there. It is beautifully landscaped with flowers, bushes, and trees. There are many hills, paths, ponds, and streams to explore and a children's garden where the kids love to play.

Before we knew it, we were on our way home to Wyoming. It was sad to leave but we're looking forward to seeing everyone again on our next trip. I'm so glad we were able to make more fun memories and strengthening bonds with our extended family.