Ah Pu’s auntie gave him only one piece of advice on his wedding night and that was to make sure his new bride never went hungry. This would help them to have a long life together.
For Phillip and Jennifer
I am in New York to attend the wedding of my god-son Phillip. He was married in St. Patrick’s Cathedral yesterday, an incredible experience. It was grand and at the same time intimate. The last time I was in a Catholic Church for a ceremony was some 30 years ago, in Taiwan, when I held Ah Pu in my arms when he was but a few weeks old. Ann, Ah Pu’s mother is from New York and her family were never able to attend her wedding or the subsequent birth of her children, so I often “stood in” on behalf of relative's To go from the simple sparse pews of St. Anne’s in Tien Mou to a packed St. Patrick’s in Manhattan is a metaphor for Phillip’s journey.
The past month has been a sad one for me. My mother’s death has left me confused, bruised, and grief stricken; all emotions I was not prepared for. But this afternoon I walked around Central Park, in my red lantern scarf, in a mood of celebration and still dreamy over the wedding festivities of the night before. As I walked and eventually spread out under a big leafy tree, I thought hard about the last three decades, about Ann and her children, the groom being the oldest of our combined kids. And thinking about them brought my joy back, just like the bird often seen in my paintings, Exceeding Joy flits about and is sometimes fleeting, but always makes an appearance, alighting overhead when I least expect it.
I thought of how the preparation of Phillip’s birth changed my life. I learned so much about pregnancy and childbirth from Ann. She led me through so many experiences like a big sister. It was watching her with Ah Pu that made me want to be a mother. We had the same doctor, shared maternity clothes and gave each other showers. A year later my daughter Leigh was born.
I had never had much experience with women from the United States for when I lived in Taiwan I had few western friends. But Ann, a true Italian New Yorker, fresh from America informed me upon our first meeting at a near- bankrupt advertising agency in Taipei where we both worked as illustrators, that I WOULD BE her friend. She was about to marry a Taiwanese man and over our pencils and pads I unwound the long and tangled stories about the inner workings of complex Chinese families and customs. Over the last 30 years we have shared much exceeding joy, watching our children grow and we have also shared immense and heavy heartbreaks. We have walked through many shadows together keeping each other from falling. She has pushed me to be a stronger, truer and more accountable version of myself. I love that about her. I am always better in her presence.
Today I will take some credit for how well her two children turned out. Even though I was a substitute stand in god-mother when Ah Pu was baptized at St. Anne’s, yesterday it was a fully accredited Auntie who stood at St. Patricks.