Sunday, August 12, 2007


Photo taken when JL visited St. Louis in 2005. It was a nice sunny day for blowing bubbles. JL enjoyed seeing the rabbits running around in the backyard.

My nephew JL turned 7 years old this month. As I am unable to have children and my only sister and the other brother are not married (not that being married is a requirement to have children in this modern time), JL is the first and only American born in my immediate family. JL was born in the year of the dragon, and in the same month as my sister, CH. My Dad was able to enjoy being A Cung (paternal grandfather in Hakka, our regional Chinese dialect) for only about six months before he passed away in February 2001.

I often wonder whether my parents would be disappointed if their first grandchild was a girl. (My Dad was the eldest son in his family and I (a girl) was the first grandchild). And whether my brother and his wife would try to have another child, and another child until a son is born to carry on the family name. A friend of mine, SY, was one of the three girls born to her parents. One time when I visited SY, during dinner, her father jokingly (could be that he was not joking at all) said that he had to leave Hong Kong because he could not stand the constant laughing that he could not produce a son.

When I look at JL, I see my little brother, VL and remember the time I rode around the neighborhood (in Viet Nam) with VL sitting in the wagon seat of my bicycle. I thought of our walks to school (De Tham School) in the morning, when we stopped by the sidewalk stands for breakfast (com tam or banh mi) and in the afternoon we would get some cold sugarcane drinks. One time the vendor handed me the glass that was almost spilled over, before giving the drink to VL, I took a big gulp. I remembered VL looking up (now I am looking up at VL) at me wondering if I was going to share with him the sweet cold drink, but he never made a big stink, just patiently waiting for his turn. VL has always been a child with good nature and a person who does not like to make waves or creating commotions or being confrontational and drawing attention to himself (unlike his eldest sister who loves the limelight and thinks the whole world should revolve around her.)

When JL visited St. Louis in 2005, he noticed his name written in the center of a heart shape drawn on the calendar by the side of the refrigerator in the kitchen. JL commented in his sweet voice, "You must be very happy I am here." We spent a week together with a few days in St. Louis and a visit to my distance cousin and her family in Memphis, Tennessee. My cousin has a small dairy farm and JL enjoyed the country living, playing with the dogs, looking for the peacocks and chasing after the ducks and the chicken. It was one of the happiest times in my life.

One day I hope to show my nephew the notes my brother has written about how happy JL's birth brought to our family. I still remember the excitement in my father's voice when he called and left me a message that my sister-in-law just gave birth to a healthy baby boy. An email (October 2000) from VL wrote that while my Dad felt weak after the chemotherapy treatment and stayed in his room most of the time, the only joy my Dad had was whenever my Dad saw JL. VL wrote "It's amazing how much joy the little guy brings with him". How JL was such a good baby that he usually slept through the night and whenever he woke up, he would roll his big eyes all around, make some cute throaty sounds, looked adorable, and sending signals that he was ready for his milk bottle.

One day I hope to share with my nephew the story of our escape from Viet Nam as boat people, our ancestors who are Hakka people, nomads from Kwangtung, China and how we emigrated to Viet Nam and then to America as refugees. I hope to share stories about our struggle and how we overcame the difficulties in the new land and our accomplishments in America. We all have high hopes for JL's future and I must admit I place very high expections what JL would become, giving the opportunities and advancement.

Happy Birthday my favorite nephew. Here is to a peaceful world in your bright future.

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