Monday, February 18, 2013

My Sister Yi (Amy) Married Steven Pao (鲍)

My sister Yi never left home; she worked in the accounting department of the Oil Company my parents worked for all their life. She could not love anyone there since they all knew each other since they were kids. It would be like marrying one’s own sibling. Our ambassador friend from Taiwan introduced us to the Pao (鲍) family in Bristol, NH. The family owned two Chinese restaurants. Their oldest son Steven was looking for a Chinese bride. The ambassador introduced Steven to my younger sister Yi. Steven and Yi wrote to each other and then Steven visited China. I did not have much hope on this, since I introduced a Chinese man that I knew in Boston to my sister before, and it did not happen. Here, we were talking about the other side of the earth.
     One day after I returned home from work, my parents told me that Steven and his parents came for a visit. Steven sat far away quietly while his parents asked permission if their son could marry their daughter after two years of calling and visiting. How much did my parents want? After all, Steven’s father paid over $30,000 for his wife (10 years younger than he). His grandfather was Nationalist went to Taiwan in 1949 when KMT lost. The locals call them province outsiders (外省人), then they came came to US, the locals call them Chinese. When they finally was able to visit China, the locals call them Taiwanese.
     My parents were shocked; they had never been asked such a question before, but only heard such stories from their parents. Maybe people in remote areas of China still held this custom, but not in the cities since 1949.
     My parents told them that they were not selling their daughter; they did not want a penny from them as long as they both wanted to marry each other. Steven’s parents thought that my parents were losing their daughter to them, so after all those years raising her as a good daughter, it was reasonable to ask compensation. My parents married in 1958 all by themselves with a group of their coworkers and friends. They practically put two single beds together, after giving a few candies to everyone who came for the wedding.
     Steven went back to China and married my sister there, then came back to the US to start the immigration process. It took another two years before my sister was able to join him in NH. His parents had a formal wedding banquet in Chinatown with ten tables. Each table had ten people. The newlyweds had to kneel down on the floor and bow to the sky, the ground, both parents, and each other. I only saw this in old Chinese movies. The banquet food covered almost everything, seafood of every kind, chicken, pork, beef…plus a wedding cake. It was beautiful.
     They had a boy and girl. They moved away from NH down south since my sister could not stand the cold winter in the north. Steven wanted to live his own life away from his parents’ shadow. He was out of the restaurant business, eating less and his high cholesterol was in normal range again. His whole family used to go to gambling places every Christmas when they closed their restaurants. My sister, my mother, and I never went with them. They now stayed home for Christmas for three years. My sister is teaching Chinese in the local Chinese school.
     Steven’s parents were heartbroken when all their kids gave up their restaurant business. It was a perfect business in which the whole family could be working together. However, their kids got tired of waiting on tables, long working hours, and no weekends and holidays. They all moved down South, and bought their own houses. They left their parents no choice but to sell one business, and hired all the other employees for the other restaurant.
Pao's (鲍) Family Garden

For Chinese Women, Marriage Depends On Right 'Bride Price' Payback for my grandmother's generation.