Wandering through the shopping mall during the holiday season a month or so ago, a man at a kiosk hollered out to me, "come check out our scarves and hats--I promise none of them are made in CHINA!" His tone and facial expression held palpable disgust as he referenced China. I laughed back at him, "you picked the wrong line to get my attention--my husband is Chinese." And then I kept walking, pondering. If my child were old enough to understand what that salesperson said, I would not have laughed. Actually, perhaps Lo IS old enough to be affected (kids this age are sponges, with particular deftness in reading emotions), in which case I feel a bit more bothered that I did not inform that man of my intentions to raise my child with a bi cultural personality and ask him to please be more sensitive and stop sabotaging my efforts.
I love to see Lo's growing awareness and excitement over his mixed heritage. Multiple times he has declared, "I see Chinese people," when we pass random Asian strangers. And he always notices Chinese characters, saying things like "I give you this Chinese book," as he hands me one from our bookshelf. He has also noticed that Jerry is the one who can read those types of books best, sometimes showing me a Chinese book and then saying, "Daddy come home, read this Chinese book with me." I wish I could read Chinese better--even my pin yin skills are waning since I've been out of school.
Some of the titles I grabbed at the library lately are purely for my own enjoyment (older reading level than Lo can handle). The Ch'I-Lin Purse, retold by Linda Fang, held such charming ancient stories. I felt my heart warming toward the culture of my husband as I heard these old fables and fairy tales from China. These are stories that most Chinese people have grown up hearing countless times--tales of the collective conscious akin to our "Cinderellas," "Rapunzels," and "Three Little Pigs," etc. Yet none of them were familiar to me, an erudite yet Western-educated gal.
One of the adult nonfiction books I got was written by an outsider. One of the reviews claimed the work to be "a balanced view of China, with all its warts and accomplishments." But the more I read that book, the more depressed I felt. It really seemed to take a negative, unloving stance toward a country that now claims at least some of my loyalty. Yes, China has had a troubling past of corrupt leaders, squandered resources, and current ills--but what country holds purity of past or present?
At a community event for refugees last month, I saw some Iraqi youth query why their nation's flag was not represented among those on display. When told that it simply had not been among the collection, they immediately got to work creating their own huge flag to hang--colored with crayons and cut from the paper table-cloth they found on their dinner table. At the time, I felt genuinely surprised they would feel proud of their country. After all, they are here in America seeking a better life than what Iraq could offer them. But they knew of the beauties of their country; they had witnessed a truth firsthand: Each culture has its share of vices and virtues. I for one prefer to emphasize to myself and my family the GOOD that exists in our heritage. Enough already with the desire some have to sling mud on our founding fathers. I am proud to be an American, land of the free, home of the brave. But I also feel proud to tell my child "You are American and Chinese." I am happy to teach him the culture that produced such tales as The Ch'I-Lin Purse and so forth. Gung Hey Fat Choy!
By the way, The Ch'I-Lin Purse is a story of how kindness begets kindness...a good karma tale. A wealthy girl about to be married notices another bride who has no riches. The wealthy bride shares with the poor bride some of her dowry, a purse with a treasure inside. Eventually, tragedy befalls the wealthy young bride. She ends up seeking help from strangers--who turn out to be the married couple who received the treasure purse years earlier. The tale ends by saying, "If you have a chance to do something good, do it. Happiness will come back to you." Love it! Let's all go out and do some good in the world.