Day 160: Family ties

Day 160: Family ties

Day 160: Family ties

Monday, 9 June 2014

I recently read an article by Mabel Kwong addressing why Asians generally don’t say “I love you” to their parents. I gave a moment to contemplate that and another of her pieces about why Asians don’t hug. Both are true, I suppose, but I thought I’d share something I once did.

In Hong Kong, in the living room area of my mother’s family home, sitting atop a splendiferous mahogany cabinet, is a very old photo of my late grandparents seated on a platform beside Queen Elizabeth II as she inspected her troops.

It is a memory my mother treasures because they remind her of happier times, of the love she had for her parents; because she treasures any moment she can keep of her mother, my 婆婆, who was cruelly taken from us at much too young an age.

For more than 30 years, my uncle, her older brother, refused to give her a copy of that photo. With so much distance between us, with so many years having gone by, and our family having since gone in so many different directions, I perceived that she may soon never have a chance to lay eyes on that image again. So a couple of years ago, I took matters into my own hands.

I dropped into the house to pay my respects. I took Indy into the living room to watch some television. When nobody was looking, I climbed up the cabinet, brought down the photo in its picture frame and took a photo of it. I took care to clean all the dust off the surface and ensured that my perspective was perfectly square. I made sure there was no glare on the surface, used a tripod to make sure there’s no motion blur, set the ISO sensitivity so that there’s no noise, eliminated any conflicting light sources, and manually calibrated the white balance to make sure the colours are perfectly accurate. I took ten 36-megapixel snaps. Then I climbed back up the cabinet and placed the photo back on the spot where the track marks in the dust were. In Photoshop, I created a new version of the file that corrected any fading and colour degradation.

When I printed it out, it was as close to being an original print as possible.

I framed it and gave it to my mother for her birthday.

It’s one of the only times that I’ve seen my mother speechless. Eventually, she said to me very discreetly “you realise this is priceless to me?”

I just smiled. There was no hugging.

I don’t need to tell my parents that I love them. They know. It’s shown through our actions. That’s the way it’s always been.

As my mother would say, after all that I’ve done for you, if you don’t know that I love you, you’re an idiot.

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