Tag Archives: Filitalian

Hop Sing

I lived in Philadelphia for a while and worked at The White Dog Cafe. It’s a really lovely place. Before I worked in the dining room I used to wait on tables in the bar area. The bar was always very crowded and it took a lot of maneuvering to get from the service bar to the tables, especially when you were carrying a tray. One especially crowded Friday night there was a group of older guys who decided to try to stand at the bar right next to the service bar. Every time I had to pick up a drink order I had to squeeze my way around two or three of them. I decided to try to ask them if they would move away from the service bar and I politely said,

“Excuse me sir but that really isn’t a good place to stand.”

They ignored me. I went on with my job and had to squeeze by them a couple more times and had to ask them to move a couple more times. Finally, I asked one guy to move again,

“Excuse me sir but that really isn’t a good place to stand.”

“Not a good place to stand? Will someone tell Hop Sing that Danang wasn’t a good place to stand either.”

I was speechless. I went and told my manager what he had said and she threw them all out.

It’s funny cause I don’t think I look anything like this guy.

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Weekend Visit

We spent the holiday weekend at my parent’s house. My father’s birthday was on Sunday so it was a combination visit. It was very hard being in their house again. The last time we were there was just two or three weeks after Thanksgiving when everything was still so raw. They are doing better now, the sadness is less immediate but you can still see it there. They have pictures of my brother up in every single room – only the bathrooms are spared – so you cannot get away from him in a sense. He hated that house so much and never wanted to go back there again – he made sure of that. It felt ironic to feel him there now. He’s trapped there somehow, even though he’s gone so far away from us. My in-laws came as well. It was wonderful to have them there. I almost never want to go to that house again without some other people to buffer the experience. My dad is as angry as ever, if not more so, and nitpicks my mom over every single little thing. She’s talking back to him a little more now but still it hurts me to see and hear it. I’m still recovering from it all. It’s kind of like a hangover but without any of the fun of getting drunk first.

On Saturday night my father put on one of the most purposely sad movies I’ve ever seen. It was called Simon Birch and it was about a young boy who is growing up without a father in the early 60’s. His best friend is Simon Birch who is a midget (or a dwarf, I’m not sure). Simon loves his friend and the friend’s mom played by Ashley Judd, and promises to help his friend find out who his real father is. The actors were all charming and some of the scenes were funny but then in a second the scene would change and something awful would happen. I don’t think that there was a dry eye in the living room. It is nice to cry at movies sometimes but I think for our particular group of people, it was a little hard to take. Leave it to my dad to pick a winner! When my mother-in-law asked him if he’d seen it before he said what he always says, I’ve seen parts of it. I’ve now learned that this means, “I need to make you think I’ve seen this movie/book/thing before but I really haven’t. In fact, I have no idea what I’m talking about”.

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Skank Avenue

Yesterday representatives from one of our vendors visited our office and took me and my colleague out to lunch. These are people that I’ve ever only spoken to over the phone and I’m the newest one to the mix so there was a lot of “where are you from” and “where have you worked before” type questions. I discovered that the main sales person also grew up in my hometown, Great Neck, NY. Great Neck is on the North Shore of Long Island. It was (and still probably is) an extremely affluent community. It had an excellent school system and that is why my parents moved there. Our family never quite achieved the level of financial success and security as the rest of our community. Except for a short stint in a rented house when I was in elementary school we lived in apartments my entire time there. Most of the time was spent in a two bedroom apartment on Schenck (pronounced SKANK) Avenue. The name of my street pretty much sums up my feeling about the place and my experiences living there. We did not have happy times in that apartment. After my brother and I moved out my parents downsized to an even smaller apartment in the same building so they could afford to invest in an apartment in Brooklyn (the sale of which enabled them to buy their current house). My brother had to move back in with them for a while and thankfully I didn’t have to spend a whole lot of time with them all there in that place. My brother wasn’t doing well at all at the time and my parents have a way of constantly reminding you of your failures. Those were truly dark days for him. Life in Great Neck was challenging outside of our apartment as well. I attended high school during the shiny newness of the Reagan presidency. In fact, I remember being in 8th grade science and hearing a PA announcement telling us that our new president had been sworn in and the hostages has been freed. All through junior high, middle school and into high school I felt enormous pressure to fall into step with what every other kid was doing, wearing, saying, thinking – being. I know that everyone says this and many many people feel this way about their youth but I don’t know – Great Neck just felt different. Maybe I was just too sensitive for the place but I felt openly ridiculed for being different. It wasn’t until I was in 10th grade that I learned to embrace my differences and be the theater geek I was born to be.

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Mother Guilt

With the start of the holiday season we’ve also started the annual rite of Mother Guilt. Perhaps you’re familiar with the kind, my mother and her guilt – or rather my guilt. No matter how much we try to avoid it – it happens every year. This year we are going to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving and we were planning on having Christmas Eve at our house. We invited my parents, my in-laws and my sister-in-law and her family. I just found out that my sister-in-law can’t make it because her step-daughter can’t come (she’s got to stay closer to home to be near her mother). Now my husband wants to go to his mom’s house for Christmas Eve instead. He doesn’t want it to be just my parents and our little family. I can see his point. Christmas is really fun when you have kids around. Ever since we had P we’ve wanted to her to be around other children on Christmas Eve.

Right before P turned 3 we decided to spend Christmas Eve with my parents at their house. It was just the 5 of us. I know that it made them incredibly happy to have their granddaughter all to themselves. My daughter’s birthday is in the first week in January so it was not three weeks after that happy Christmas when my dad completely freaked out after her birthday party. My parents were staying at a bed and breakfast nearby because my brother and his wife at the time were staying with us. They were leaving to go back to their room and he was asking what time I was serving breakfast the next morning, 8:30 am, 9:00 am?? Mind you, this is only three weeks after Christmas, one week after I spent my New Year’s Eve puking up some bad non-dairy creamer I put in my coffee and only hours after having 12 2-3 year olds plus their parents in my house for fun and a clever craft and when he asked me when Sunday breakfast was being served I replied (even half jokingly), aren’t you staying at a bed and breakfast? Don’t they serve breakfast there? You would have thought I had flipped him the bird the way he reacted to that. He didn’t talk to either of us or see us for MONTHS after that. Before he stormed out of the house that night he told my brother that I was a “piece of s**t”. I can’t even write it out, that particular comment is so hurtful to me. Needless to say, there are a lot of bad feelings on both sides as there has been for years.

I told my mom about the change in plans for this year on Sunday and I could hear the disappointment in her voice over the phone. Then she called me the next day and told me again how disappointed she was. I know that she is jealous of my in-laws because we see them so much more often. They also live much closer to us than my parents do. My parents might as well live in another state it takes so long to get to their house from mine. Just take a look at the map for crapssake! I do feel for them and I feel like I should be more forgiving. They are my parents and I love them but I just can’t stand this same routine for every single holiday and/or birthday. Now that they feel officially dissed does it mean that they are going to be giving us crap on Thanksgiving? Is my Dad going to lose his mind and freak out again? If they do end up coming to my in-laws on Christmas Eve are they going to be speaking to us? All these questions need answering but I fear that we won’t know them until the very moments are upon us. It is so easy to offend them, I shouldn’t even be surprised anymore when I do.

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Old Photo Wednesday

Every Wednesday I’m going to try to share some of my favorite old photos with you.

I think that this photo was taken sometime in the late 40’s in the Bronx. The women are from left to right: my grandmother Anna, her neighbor and best friend Angie, my father’s sister Antoinette or Gigi (as my grandmother called her), my grandmother’s younger sister Ida and Angie’s other daughter Carolyn. Angie’s family lived upstairs in the same apartment building as my father’s family. Angie and Anna were so close that their families did everything together. Everyone always thought that they were related. It’s funny but I can see a resemblence in all of their faces anyway. My dad always talks about how they would go up to Angie’s apartment before and after school because my grandmother had a job as a seamstress. Angie also worked, she took in sewing piece work and all the kids pitched in to help her get it done. I’ve always loved the expressions on everyone’s faces in the picture. The two mothers look so strong and confident in their bold print dresses.

My grandmother died sometime in the early 80’s. She had beaten breast cancer and was in remission but then developed pneumonia and refused to let anyone take her to the doctor until it was too late. She was stubborn to the very end. Angie and Carolyn both died when I was still a little girl. My great aunt Ida passed away just over 10 years ago. She lived in Queens with the last in a series of younger South American women who were combination roomate, companion and in the end caretaker. Aunt Ida was married once but when her marriage fell apart she never found another husband though not for lack of trying. When I was very young I remember her mod clothes, pearly eyeshadow and orange hairdo. She was the one who bought me Barbie dolls and when I was in college sewed me a lovely tailored blouse out of the blue. My Aunt Ann lives in Connecticut with my Uncle Tommy. Her two children were 10 years older than me and my brother and I went between wanting to marry my cousin Steven and wanting to be my cousin Laura whom I idolized. Nettie and her husband Pierre came to my wedding six years ago and I haven’t heard from them since.

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What the?

I used to work with a woman who was much younger than the rest of us – by about 20 years. We used to tease her about every young guy who happened to come into the office. Once we got Chinese food delivered to the office and the delivery guy was a young Asian man. After he left the office one of the older gals, Janice turns to the younger one, Kate and says something like,

“What about that one Kate? He was pretty cute for a chinaman.”

I happened to be walking towards her desk with a folder at the time and I almost threw it at her. I guess that she’s just totally clueless and she doesn’t have any sense that I might have found that offensive in the least? What is wrong with some people.

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Nothing Like Me

Just in case you were wondering, the lady in the haircut picture looks nothing like me. I don’t look like this either. I am hapa – half-Filipino (1st generation on Mother’s side) and half-Italian (2nd generation on Father’s side). Growing up on Long Island there was only one other Asian kid in my class. Hiro, an overly excited Japanese boy whose limited grasp of English consisted solely of the phrase “you porkie-pig”. He would yell this at you while attempting to grab your cheeks. This was back when if someone wanted to know “where I was from” they’d ask if I was Chinese or Japanese. My brother and I used to compete with each other over who looked more Asian – this was a not a positive thing in our minds. My parents were not a unified team. They fought constantly throughout my childhood. I believe that a lot of these identity issues came about because my parents did not know how to meld their marriage with the two personalities and two cultures at all. I didn’t really come to acknowledge and enjoy my Asian-ness till after college when I had a roomate that was also half-Filipino. She had grown up in the Philippines and only came here when she was 17 or 18 or so. My Mother loved her and I always kind of felt that she was the daughter my Mother never had.

P looks a lot like I did when I was her age but with blonde hair. It’s getting darker now though sometimes I still wonder if people think I’m her nanny, not her mom. I guess that I shouldn’t worry what other people are thinking – especially if they aren’t perceptive enough to see that she is my child – but I sometimes do. P doesn’t have a lot of other Asian faces in her life. I chose our pediatricians partly because two of the doctors were Asian. I wanted her to have some positive role models. G’s parents are from Norway and I feel like she’s getting a deeper Scandinavian experience than either Filipino or Italian. This is OK for now. We don’t see my parents as much as we see G’s. My parents live way out on the eastern end of Long Island here. They might as well live in a different state – it takes so long to get there. It’s not just that they live so far away – our relationship isn’t the best. I don’t feel like G likes to acknowledge that P is a part of them at all. As I’ve said, she doesn’t look anything other than white. I may not be so happy about my parents all the time but I do know that her heritage, who she is as a person and who she’ll be includes them.