Double Blossom xx – Week 4
Meet Mary and Yuan. My parents met through a blind date set up by a mutual friend on the basis that they were the only Chinese in the village; a small town in 1950’s New England. If they had met in China or anywhere else that had more Chinese people, New York City even, I’m pretty sure I would not be here writing to you.
Misaligned, they never got each other. In fact, they almost didn’t even get together. A few weeks after their first date, my father called her to see if she wanted to catch a movie. Disappointed and angry that he had not called immediately after, she told him upfront and hung up on him. As he walked toward his front door to go the movie on his own, the phone rang. It was she.
He’d moved from China to the US with his family as a young boy, the son of a UN diplomat. She came to the US on her own at the age of eighteen. Her father, a Kuomintang general, died in battle when she was eleven. A few years later when cancer consumed my grandmother, my mother’s orphan status became non negotiable.
My father may have grown up with more stability — during war, stability is relative — than my mother but he came to their relationship with just as many demons. He was an unplanned child and felt unloved his entire childhood as he trailed in the footsteps of his beloved brother and sister.
She wanted more security than he could provide. He wanted more appreciation and adulation than she could give.
Of course when you’re young, it’s difficult to know yourself well enough to know how your demons might plague you later. And what you might want to look for in a partner to complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses can be difficult to discern in the throes of chemistry and attraction. It’s easy to be idealistically naïve.
I think about this with my own two sons and hope that I have brought them up to grasp the importance of being vested in knowing, understanding and respecting themselves; so that they might recognise what they can bring to bring to a relationship as well as what they will need from one.
I have no idea who took this photo. It’s an anomaly amongst the photos I have of my parents. Judging from their clothes and my father’s eyeglass frames, it’s the late 60’s or early 70’s, which means they had at least 3 children by then. This photo makes me happy because it shows that despite my memories, they did occasionally still do things together without us.
With love, Xtine.
The above post is part of Double Blossom xx, an Instagram project I started with photographer Christina Wilson Elms during lockdown. Each week we post a photo of ourselves and write a letter to the other on an agreed theme. If you are interested in reading our stories, you can find us on Instagram at Double Blossom xx — Two London sistas share stories about being Chinese in the UK and the US. Same age, same name; almost.