let's see in december of 1980, i was eight years old... which means i was in the third grade and oh yes, sorta in between grades - it was around the time that i had gotten promoted and was trying my best to fail miserably in every class i had.
promoting someone like me to the next academic grade level in 1980 was like dressing me up in a crisp bonnet, starched blouse and voluminous skirts and sentencing me to a colonial stockade while still in the year 1980.
first of all, i was born with something called cystic hygroma - the mothership of all facial deformities - imho. second, i was one of two filipino girls (not the pretty one) in my public grade school of mostly underprivileged white and latino kids.
i should preface this by saying i love my mom. she is my hero. i can't imagine landing in a foreign country and not really knowing the country's language perfectly, then shortly thereafter, giving birth in the same country and raising a child alone - who's also sick and a girl.
my handful of years spent at avondale elementary on chicago's nw side were difficult. i remember wanting to fit in so badly, wanting to be accepted, etc. i remember wanting the right clothes and a lunchbox like all the other kids. my mom was very cognizant of my "needs" and did the best she could.
most of my clothes came from the thrift store or rummage/garage sales. (they still do. it's where my obsession for all things ebay/thrift comes from.) i asked my mom, "can you buy me garanimals clothes from a store?" my mom responded, "what are garanimals?" i replied, "they're clothes that you match up by the animals on the tags." i have to mention here that i really had NO idea what garanimals were, i got the idea, i'd heard the explanation, but i really didn't know. my mom asked "the top and the bottom match?" it was looking promising... i said "yes". and that was when i started wearing second hand pajamas to school.
wait. it gets better...
re: the lunchbox... even in the ghetto, kids had a requisite lunchbox decorated with their favorite 70s cartoon character. everyone except me. so, again, i asked my mom, "can you buy me a lunch box from a store?" my mom replied, "what's a lunchbox?" i offered, "it's a box that you put your lunch in." and she returned, "oh, sure, i can do that." and that was when i started bringing a large porcelain sugarbowl (w/ a rubberband around it to clasp it shut) to school.
here's an idea: let's promote the freaky looking, asian girl brainiac who wears pajamas and brings a rubberbanded porcelain sugarbowl (filled with rice, banana chips and prunes) to school.
i'll never forget walking into my first class as a promoted student. it was absolutely terrifying. everyone was SO much bigger than me in MY class - but they were G I A N T S in this new one. i failed every test i got and did everything i could to be put back in my class - which they did.
but, the damage was done. the legend of my historic rule as school freak was wrought - i was the standard to which all future freaks would be measured.
y'know... i was originally going to wax poetic about how yoko ono and john lennon helped to perpetuate the stereotype of the asian female/white male couple. and in doing so, how their relationship haunts my own "sellout" existence with my "white" husband and my "mongrel" child. but that's a post for another day....
today, i'll remember sitting in the dark next to my mom. she was sipping some red wine with ice and then offered me a sample sip too. her face was lit up by the gray blue fuzz of the tv and the tears were streaming down her face as the details of lennon's death were broadcast. no sounds, just tears.
today, i'll be listening to some lennon in remembrance of the other man that made my mom cry.