I think I'm becoming more Chinese. If you didn't already know, I'm an ABC, which stands for American-born Chinese. When Howard and I used to go to church in Chinatown and then pick up lunch from the restaurants, the workers there would know to speak to me in English. I was baffled as to how they knew that, and Howard explained that I even look like an ABC.
I never quite understood Chinese customs and traditions, and I've definitely had disagreements with my very traditional father when I was growing up because I couldn't grasp why some things had to be the way they were. I mean, having to invite my dad's friends to the wedding when I didn't even have a clue as to who they were? Things like that just didn't make sense to me. Sure, I was all for getting some extra cash in red envelopes during Chinese New Year and respecting elders as they had their big celebration dinners. But there were other customs that seemed pointless to me. Though I may never truly understand why we did things the way we did, I knew I didn't really have much of a choice. Tea ceremony on our wedding day? Um, didn't quite understand why that was important, but I guess I just had to do it. Avoiding black clothing on birthdays? Um, I look thinner in black, but if you say so!
As Howard and I approach our 3-year anniversary in May, I realize that I've actually come to accept more Chinese things without questioning it. I'll be honest and say that when we first got married, I didn't really consider myself part of the "F" family. My parents told me that in the Chinese culture, getting married meant that I was no longer a member of the "L" family. I didn't really take it seriously because as I've mentioned before in previous blog posts, I felt somewhat of a separation due to the language barrier. In my mind I thought that I was marrying Howard regardless of what his last name was. But month after month, I see that I am more and more of an "F" even if I still don't understand all the parts of the conversation during a family gathering!
I came to the realization this week as we went over to my in-laws' house to celebrate Chinese New Year. We already had dinner with Howard's family three times since 2015 began because of my sister-in-law's birthday, Howard's birthday, and my mother-in-law's birthday. But there was something different about Chinese New Year. Maybe it was because it wasn't at a restaurant and was instead at the house where we all sat around the family table. I've sat at that table a few times before when we were dating and then when we were engaged, but something changed that night. Maybe it's because my nephew Toby is in the picture now, and it just made it feel like we were a family of 7 joining together to eat dinner that night. Maybe it was because of the time we were playing with Toby and trying to entertain him while Howard's parents did food preparation and cooked the meal. I can't put my finger on it; it just felt like what a family does.
I know it doesn't seem like such a huge change, but in my mind, I really do see it as becoming "more Chinese"!
Here's an overhead shot of the food that my father-in-law and mother-in-law prepared. I remember my grandma and my own mom making the "fat choy" (the black stuff that looks like hair) around CNY, so despite being an ABC, there are some things that I "know" even if I don't remember why it's so important to eat it during that holiday. My favorite dish was probably the "dow mew," which is like, pea shoots or snow pea leaves or something like that (the big plate-o-green). I haven't had it in so long, and Howard and I commented that we haven't had oyster sauce in ages too! I also enjoyed the shrimp, of course, and the mix of veggies with the cloud ear mushroom (bottom left). I even had a few pieces of the tongue (bottom right)! It was a ton of food for the 6 of us since Toby is still too young and was gnawing on a banana.
After dinner, Howard took some pictures. His parents wanted him to take pictures of an orchid plant they're growing, and then my sis-in-law plopped Toby on the table for some pictures too! He's not entirely steady when he sits, so I was behind the table with my hand there just in case! I thought I was hidden, but my hand was in the shots, but hubs was able to edit it and crop it out!
Later on, Sharon put Toby in some CNY gear, and we gave him some red envelopes. He proceeded to pop them in his mouth and gnaw on them!
We left a little after 10pm. Before we did, we got some homemade turnip cake to bring home! My in-laws make it the best in my opinion. That's probably one of the BEST parts of CNY!