Most of us look through photo albums of childhood at some point about ten years after the childhood period. There is a general acceptance of life and existence at this point and it is pure curiosity in which we look upon ourselves before we became older. The funny thing is I can never seem to recall those precious moments taken. I don't recall the small tricycle with the large and out-of-proportion red wheel. I don't recall owning a hat with a red fuzz ball at the end either. I do remember dreaming of wearing an orange life vest that was far too large for me; riding in a ship of some kind with a yellow tent material covering a metal skeleton. I remember that in that dream I saw my grandmother and my parents. I remember feeling seasick and running out of the orange canopy and into the salty sea breeze. Apparently it never happened. We couldn't yet afford to take vacations when I was six, the age I am convinced I was in that dream.
I also have a more fuzzy memory that "actually" happened. I simply remember a playground with tires stacked in the many pyramids, a very tall balance beam, and bright red monkey bars. I also remember a girl with blond curly hair and bright blue eyes. Apparently, she was my first "girl friend" to the other children though I don't think any of us at that time understood all the implications of love. Even today love is a mystery to me. I liked to tell tales of me being slightly older and the big brother of this girl. When I looked back I often attributed to my "tactics" of protection to Batman, though I probably wasn't thinking about heroes or role models back then either. Perhaps becoming friends with someone who seemed lonely and a slight outcast like myself was only human and natural. I never did find what happened to her because I can't for the life of me remember her name.
Beyond those two memories there are other minor ones. There was the time that I developed a very bad habit of excreting liquid waste in my pants when nervous. There was the time that I befriended a fellow student who was know to be "gay" but in actuality probably more troubled. There was the time I tripped and fell on air only to gain a very fine and bloody scrape on the gravel. There was the time when I lied and got caught. But those aren't the only ones. I had happy memories as well. I remember seeing Niagara Falls and yelling to make myself heard. I remember looking down into the grand canyon from a lip and being very careful not to get too close to the edge despite the fact that railing had been installed on the edge. I remember seeing the tallest waterfall somewhere and playing with the moisture that was expelled from the collision of water on water.
Before I go on with memories perhaps it is best if I describe my family. Our family is 99.99 percent Chinese. The other 0.001 is the mystery since there is no true 100 in the world according to my last year's math teacher. My mother was born in the province of Shanghai, my father in a neighboring province Hangzho. I am told that I was born in Shanghai in a Chinese hospital. Both my parents immigrated to the US and soon sent for me when I was three years old. My grandmother came to America with me but left soon afterwards after the news that my grandfather was dying of stomach cancer. I do have a faint memory of looking up upon steel bars, which hospital beds were famous for. I also remember seeing the skeleton of a man hooked up to at least twenty plastic tubes. I think he spoke to me. I remember very clearly that he said: "I am dieing." And I remember my vision growing cloudy from the tears of that simple statement. What he said afterwards is not so certain. At times I believe he only desired we pay respect every few years, sometimes he desired that we live a happy life, and still other times I believe that he said nothing at all.
So how did his death affect me? To be honest, I don't think it did really. At times I feel guilty about not feeling the immense sorry both my mother and grandmother displayed during the first visit to his grave. At other times I feel guilty about not getting to know the man better. Sometimes though I feel blessed that I had not been touched by the death of a loved one yet and that life could continue without a hitch. Despite all the supposed psychological and physical implications that were supposed to come with death, I really don't believe that I was changed that much. I think that I still believed I could live forever afterward for a while. It was only later on when I got extremely sick that I think I began to change that philosophy. In essence I was removed, removed from family as well as society.
Now, why do I say society? Why do I say outsider? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out when you are liked and when you are not so popular. Perhaps it was a race issue. Asians are usually depicted as locked up in some laboratory alone and aloof or taking on ten other men with impressive martial art combat maneuvers. That's not to say that the race itself doesn't encourage the labels of enlightened and a force to be reckoned with. However positive the prejudice may be, the downside of the Asian prejudice is that we are often labeled as antisocial, shy, incapable of communication through the English language, incapable of strong leadership abilities such as public speaking.
All these prejudices do have merits in certain places. My parents and almost all of their friends speak, what is known to Americans as "broken English" Even my father who majored in English has trouble with the oral ordeal sometimes. In China there is still the strong influence of the idea that the authority is always right. What you are taught is taken for granted; only silence and the right answer are acceptable. Though capital punishment is banned even today there is the big issue of individuality and self-thought. When society does all the thinking for you opinions become unnecessary and dangerous. Though that is slowly changing, the remnants of that ideology is still prevalent in young adults of twenty-one.
Thus it is very possible that I chose Batman becomes that is what society expected of me. I was destined to be a "nerd" or a "dork" and I had already signed an agreement-contract without fully comprehending what the contract would require of me. However like most other Asians acceptance was much easier than revolt. You get to keep your head literally if you carried a silent grudge. Perhaps the early lessons of silence were the ones most important. They kept me out of trouble with the authorities, mainly teachers, and taught me a lot about respect. As a silent observer you get to see the differences in ideology without wasting your breath to perhaps judge too soon. The whole argument must be made completely before the judging process starts.
Unfortunately being quite was also seen as a weakness in later years as a new class element of "participation" appeared. Here the talkative could make up for not paying attention or not doing so well on pure knowledge tests. The talent to bullshit something became something equally important as to knowing something cold. It would take many years to overcome shyness even to the slightest degree. Fortunately participation counted for only 10 and thus wasn't something huge to worry about. But worry about I did. Young children have to unfortunate affliction of trying to please. They have often been synonymous to puppies in desiring to draw attention to themselves if not from their younger peers, then from their older ones.
The desire for attention and getting positive reinforcement became so strong that I became a perfectionist for a period of time. It is a very "Asian" thing to strive for the best and only accept the best. The disappointments however piled up very quickly. I was not born gifted. I was only able to obtain that impossible grade of 100 on any exam. There must have been a point where I stopped caring because a 95 was just as much of an A+. Perhaps the little details didn't matter that much, or maybe I simply got tired of striving for the skies above. In either case I developed an easier attitude toward life. Going with the flow was much easier than fighting against it.