Tiger Babies Strike Back

Tiger Babies Strike Back by Kim Wong Keltner Page A

Book: Tiger Babies Strike Back by Kim Wong Keltner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kim Wong Keltner
wavelength I couldn’t comprehend. A chain of command, a way of doing things, a respect of elders or higher-ups was being adhered to, and I apparently never got that memo because I didn’t care about letters from city supervisors, wedding announcements, or the fact that, once and for all, I don’t speak Chinese. Not Mandarin. Not Cantonese. Yes, that’s too bad. Got it. Filed it.
    I just wanted my mom to show a little enthusiasm for my lifelong dream come true, that’s all.
    Ah. Foolish mortal.
    In my parents’ house, my childhood home, I let my mom go on a little more about Fiona Ma and her dream wedding. I ate it. I walked away. I didn’t know how to express my frustration or my anger. I was a good Chinese daughter and didn’t explode.
    My parents always ask why I don’t stay longer.
    In my mom’s office near the kitchen there’s a corkboard where she has pinned up, along with Fiona’s clippings, photos of Other People’s Kids. I capitalize the letters of that phrase because they are of supreme importance, apparently. My mom is thorough in recounting who just graduated from Stanford, who is going to be a dentist, and whatnot. Although I don’t recognize all of them, my mom sings their praises with regularity. Among these accomplished children of other people, one picture stands out. It’s a glamour shot of some girl named Crystal. My mother frequently insists that I know who she is, even though I am certain that I do not.
    â€œSure, you know her!”
    â€œNo, I don’t.”
    â€œShe’s our friend’s granddaughter!”
    â€œOkay.”
    â€œIsn’t she pretty? And now she’s older, and really, really pretty. You should see her now.”
    The photo is actually attached to a handle and backed on cardboard. It’s a fan. Because, you know, who doesn’t need a personal cooling implement for those countless, sweltering days in San Francisco? And if that accoutrement is emblazoned with the pretty face of your pal’s granddaughter, I guess it’s just a win-win.
    My mom talks about Crystal kind of a lot. Crystal, if you’re out there reading this, don’t you think that’s kinda creepy?
    Why do Chinese people find it easy to praise other people’s kids and yet make their own children feel like we are not good enough? I know it’s not just a Chinese thing, but nonetheless, the mind reels. I wonder what primal, cultural, or parental need is getting satisfied by having fantasy surrogate children like Fiona and Crystal. Some might say it’s the Chinese tradition not to praise your children or else they will become lazy or will stop striving for the highest level. But more significant, I think, is that Fiona and Crystal can never hurt my mom. Maybe it’s safer to love them.
    And besides, for all I know, Crystal’s parents might have a picture of me on their bulletin board, and Crystal’s wondering who the hell I am. Maybe she’s thinking, Dang it! I’m Miss Teen Chinatown so why are there press clippings about this stupid writer all over my mom’s wall?
    Who knows. What I do know is that my parents have tons of friends, and all their yearly Christmas cards are all over the house. My mom and dad never throw anything away, so the Christmas cards from past years are taped up, pinned up, and stuck into the corners of cabinets where the glass meets the wood. I have grown up with some of the families and have certainly heard of everyone’s accomplishments.
    Interestingly though, there are some kids who, mysteriously, are never included in the family photos that we receive. There are disabled kids, delinquents, and ne’er-do-wells. I know they exist because I’ve seen them from a distance at events, slumped in wheelchairs or moping in the corners, and also I’ve heard my mom gossiping on the phone about them. But strangely, there is no photographic proof that includes or even

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