Sunday, April 15, 2007


April 15, 2007 would have been my parents' 49th Wedding Anniversary. Mom told me one time that it was easy to remember their anniversary since living in America no one could forget that April 15th was also the deadline for filing income tax returns. Of course, when my parents got married, the date was chosen by an expert who consulted his astrological charts, checking compatibility of the birth dates of the groom and bride to-be to ensure a long lasting happy marriage. Families dead ancestors were also consulted through prayers and living relatives in high authority positions were also paid respect to and for their approval.

Like many marriages during that time, my parents' marriage was arranged by someone who was respected and knew both parents from business circle. The marriage was arranged but not forced. My maternal grandparents were business owners and respected in the village. There were many matchmakers already inquiried about their youngest and only daughter. My Mom was an attractive young lady combined with her parents' wealth explained the long list of many suitors.

After the initial contact by a business acquaintance who was also a well-known matchmaker, my paternal grandfather (A Cung) made a visit from Cau Ngang (my Dad's birthplace) to my maternal grandfather (Che Cung) in Cau Tau Ha (Mom's birthplace). A month or so, another meeting was arranged, this time my Dad came along. The first time Mom saw Dad was when she was asked to serve tea to A Cung, Dad and other guests as an informal face to face introduction. Mom said that she was so nervous that when she put the teapot down in front of Dad, she almost slammed the teapot on the table.

Later, Mom's parents (Che Cung & Che Pho) asked Mom whether she liked Dad and whether she would agree to marry him. Mom knew she was not forced and could refuse the arrangement. Fortunately for Dad, Mom responded that it was up to her parents. Che Cung mentioned that he had consulted others about Dad's family, his characters and based on Dad's facial features, he thought Dad would be a loving husband and a good father. Che Cung said that he did not pay attention to the fact that Dad's family wealth was not of the same level. His only concern was finding a husband who would be faithful and loving to his only daughter.

After the engagement was announced, Dad would visit Mom every other month during his business trips. They would go for a walk or to the park, not alone but with two elderly ladies following and keeping watch. There was no such thing as "roadside kissing" or drive-in movie, Talk about the big difference compared to what takes place in today's society regarding relationships and marriages. Mom still remembered the poems Dad wrote to her and the long letters she sent back each week.

The wedding was a three-day celebration with lot of relatives, and guests from both families attended. In the traditional setting, the groom's family took care of all the expense for the wedding and presented gifts to the bride's family. Normally the bride would live with the in-laws after the wedding. I have to ask Mom the reason why Dad live with her parents' family instead. There were many people who came to the wedding with gifts of expensive items and money to show respect and to express their gratitute for the help Che Cung had assisted them over the years.

An idea just came to me that I should write an entry comparing my wedding in America to my parents', where as mine had all the typical fanfares such as bridal shower, my husband' bachelor party, the sharing of expense of the wedding, and the traditional church service.

My favorite story was that as part of the wedding celebration, Che Cung gave a large sum of money to build a school in the village. The principal wanted to name the school after Che Cung and he refused. Talk about being a true humanitarian and modesty.

Three years later I came along. Then CH, TL and finally VL. Thanks, Che Cung for your choice of selecting the loving and faithful husband for Mom and a great father for us. From the humble home in Viet Nam, to the journey seeking freedom in the open sea, to the little hut in the refugee camp, to the new land in America, each step we took towards a good life, Dad was there with us, providing and caring the best way he could. Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad. Thank you, Dad, for all you did for us.

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