Julia: “I am absolutely not like my mother,” I would affirm robustly in my teens. In my 20s, I still thought we were both unalike, but an awareness of a certain similarity had begun to assert itself. In my 30s, when I had children of my own, I woke up to reality: I was my mother! I used the same words to calm my toddlers, got mad at the same little things like muddy footprints on a newly cleaned floor, and cooked the same dishes I’d enjoyed as a child.
But, then, in my 40s, I came to recognize that my mother was more accomplished than me; she could knit amazing sweaters, bake delicious cakes in a twinkling, garden, keep house with no home help, and manage a business, all in a very effortless way. So, as my children became Tweenies, she became my role model. At difficult times I would ask myself, “What would Mother do?”
But life doesn’t stand still. My own parenting skills improved and I became more confident, so the relationship between my mother and I relaxed into one of friendship. And, it stayed that way till her death. My last memory of her is of an emaciated elderly woman, whose eyes were almost constantly closed. I sat beside her bed and held her hand as I recalled out loud our shared stories – some funny, some nostalgic. As the afternoon drifted into evening, it was time for me to fly back to Hong Kong. Mother opened her eyes as I said “Goodbye” and gazed steadily at me, smiling, “What a lovely time we’ve had together, haven’t we?” These were the last words Mother ever spoke to me.
Hoi Yee: I started traveling when I was sixteen, and have never stopped visiting a new country or city each year since. Even in my parents’ homeland of China, I’ve been to more cities and provinces than they will ever see. How different our lives have been.
All my sisters and brother are university graduates some with Master and Doctorate degrees. My father learned his (broken) English in his 30’s, at church each Sunday, as an immigrant traveling across Canada looking for work. My parents and I are so different.
Growing up in a house with four siblings, a dog, a large aquarium and parents who worked 70 hour weeks, I would describe our home as an over-crowded warehouse where people happened to live. Today, I am obsessed that my own home is always clean, clear, and bits and bobs are put away . . . every day! When our first flat was featured on the cover page of a décor magazine, I laughed at how different I am from my parents.
Recently, when recounting how my father also ran a real estate operation, a friend asked whether that is why I’m in property. Five years running my business, yet I needed that off-hand remark to highlight the obvious similarity! I never thought of my father when starting my business! After all, I am supposed to be completely different from him, aren’t I?
Although I had always primed myself to be an executive at a multinational company, I left the corporate world to start a business. My husband left his company of 14 years to join me shortly afterwards. We are a husband and wife team . . . just like my parents were in their business.
I am very different from my mother and my father. However, behind the travel photos and the education degrees, my life seems to match more and more the profiles of the two humble people who are my parents.