Stories. Everyone has one. And I started Under Plum Blossom to get to know mine better; writing to connect the dots in my life because I want to find my voice and hear my soul. Pulling multifarious threads together, I write to anchor them in one place; as much to ground myself as to understand who I am. In so doing, I hope to honour my ancestors and bring them closer to me, my children and any future generations hereafter.
I often wonder what it is that compelled me to immigrate to England when my tender roots in America had barely settled, much less embedded; forcing my children to make new roots of their own. I grew up in awe of the pilgrims, the founding fathers of our country, while my children grew up with the view that pilgrims were religious heretics. The irony does not escape me.
I was born in 1961 into a post-war optimistic America. My Chinese immigrant parents met in Hartford, Connecticut, where they settled and raised me and my three younger siblings. The four of us, born ten years apart, navigated the landscape of the New World together; uncovering its social mores and rules of engagement, inching step by step, toward the holy grail of assimilation.
The excitement of life beyond small town New England beckoned me up to Morningside Heights in New York City for my undergraduate years, much to my over-protective mother’s chagrin. And then the hallowed halls of the Ivy League tempted me deeper into New England where I earned a Masters in Architecture and met my fellow architect husband, despite the snow-filled, cold winters of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In the mid 90’s, we moved across the pond to London for a two year work assignment and now 24 years and two children later, we are still here. In that time, I have worked as an architect, exhibition designer, design and lifestyle journalist in New York and London. A few years ago, I founded Fabulous Fabsters, a website for women who are FAB — Fifty And Beyond.
My three year stint as the London editor for Remodelista and Gardenista reminded me of why I became an architect in the first place. A preoccupation with the home started very early in my life, most likely due to my growing up as the child of immigrant parents in a new country. This is something I continue to explore for publications like 91 Magazine and in my role as a Trustee for The Geffrye: Museum of the Home.
I like to think that my willingness to uproot has to do with my nomadic grandfather. Originally from the tip of Northern China just across the border from Mongolia, he rode 1200 miles alone on horseback at the age of eighteen to seek his fortune and new life. And as I write myself home on the pages of Under Plum Blossom— in my blog Little Notes and in lengthier essays in Dancing With My Ancestors — I’m hoping that these are the sorts of things I will come to appreciate and comprehend more deeply. It is my sincerest wish that my stories might inspire you to think about yours and tell them to others because in learning about each other, we learn about ourselves.