Summer came and gone by swiftly.
Falling leaves reminded me of an attic where I used to hang out with one of my cousins. From one of the corners, we could easily hear any conversations that were going on downstairs. We were young, didn’t realise my memory was one of a kind.
A huge corner-lot house with about four families living in it, my grandparents had nine children altogether. There was no surprise when different families came visiting over the weekdays and weekends. Everything was abundance, including the number of grandchildren and dogs my grandparents had. Laughters, cries, and feuds were common in such a big family. At the age of twelve to thirteen perhaps, I could comprehend pretty much all the “once upon a time” events that happened in that house.
Observation has been my strength, more than words, for I say so little.
It was out of work obligation that my mom sent me to my grandparents’. My grandmother was blind, and I was quite a happy little missy running around for her, helping my grandfather. My grandfather and I had an amusing relationship. He was the reason I believe in impossibilities. My first BMX was earned out of hard work at the age of twelve. When the world looked down on me, he stood by me, and fed me courage.
It was a huge Chinese family with some level of differences established. Upper-class, middle-class, or lower-class you name it. Maybe I belonged to the latter. Inclusion was possible but not at ease when I was a child. I do not carry similar surname as my cousins given my mom was married to my dad, of course. Sharing toys or table for food came with boundary. “Am I part of the family?” was my frequent thought. Was it me who is sensitive? Despite countless of good times shared, every new visit to my grandparents’ house came with uncertainties. Hot or cold, my cousins appeared as though they didn’t know me, like a total stranger. I’ve lost count of the number of times turning up to a dinner table just to be told that the seats were already occupied even without a headcount.
I could vividly remember the time when I was specifically excluded from a board game by my cousins just because we didn’t share the same surname. I was only thirteen years old.
It was a weird childhood feeling to grow up in. Digesting discomfort out of peace and respect, putting up a thick face, and sucking up embarrassment assuming like they never happened.
Over three decades. The world has evolved with mega topics on inclusion and embracing differences taking over the center stage. Growing up as a minority in an emerging country was demanding enough, let alone blending into a blood-related family who prefers unfamiliarity. That awkward childhood feeling is still present.
The future is our next generation. What values are we cultivating in them? Where do we start if it’s not from home?
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” – Audre Lorde