Achievement unlocked: Congratulations Loewe Chan! You are now Level 2.
So it finally happened. I finally hit the big two-oh.
I am twenty-years old! I can’t believe it. I mean… I believe it, of course. I saw it coming as my age grew closer and closer to that number. But nevertheless, it still somehow managed to catch me off guard. I mean really… twenty! It feels like I’m already hitting the mid-life crisis. Is twenty the new fifty, perhaps?
And so I sat down and I tried to comprehend in my head how I got to where I am today. And I completely got immersed into memories of my own childhood. And I just began to remember all this stuff and all these moments that don’t even feel like mine anymore.
Mrs. Smith helping me put on all my winter clothing the first Winter it snowed and helping me take everything off after she spent the whole recess putting it on for me and I didn’t have time to go outside. My mother volunteering almost everyday to help out in the classroom, and sneakily bringing in my younger sister so she can also attend school even though she was too young. Me always hoping to get picked to drop off the attendance sheet in the office because you get to wear cool costumes. Me not knowing how to write my own name in English. Attending the Teddy Bear Picnic where my classmate, Mitchel, brought a stuffed rabbit while everyone else brought a teddy bear. Driving my battery-powered Barbie jeep to school and other parents would leave me a spot to park. There was this big stuffed bear that each student got to take home for a week. You’d do something with the bear and write it into the bear’s journal. When I got the bear, my mother said it was dirty and wouldn’t let me play with it. It was just in my basement for a week, and I had to lie and write in the bear’s journal that we went to the playground together.
Mrs. Strong lecturing me when I tried to help a classmate on a spelling test. Going to ESL classes and getting furry cat stickers (the horror!). That year was 1999. My hanger in the cloakroom was #2. Parent-teacher meetings where I had to read my parents a book, and I chose the thinnest and easiest one to read because I could barely understand what I was saying. My classmates not knowing what Hello Kitty is. My classmates arguing with me that my lead pencil is not a pencil, but a pen.
I joined the school choir. I don’t remember my teacher. I don’t remember anything from this year… what the heck?
I had two teachers- Mrs. Devereux and Mr. Nelson. I gave Mr. Nelson a wallet for Christmas. I gave Mrs. Devereux gift boxes inside gift boxes for Christmas. I won a loonie for winning the class spelling bee, the last word was “vacuum”. There was a boy who always got in trouble with the teacher. I tried to be nice to him, he passed me the ball once in a dodge ball game but I wasn’t paying attention and I missed it. A bear’s nose got caught in an open window facing the forest backyard in my classroom and I got to touch the bear’s nose. My first public speech was about Chinese New Years because my parents wrote it for me.
I had a locker for some reason. The first boy to ever say he liked me was a boy who transferred into my class this year. He lived on my street. My favorite game was California Kickball. At the Christmas Concert, I sang “A Gift of Love” in choir and it was my favorite song. I was the leading character, Rudolph, for our class’s individual performance. I also played the main protagonist, the poor lost boy, in the Christmas Play for the Drama Club. I learned to play guitar in music class. I got a nosebleed during quiet reading time and rushed to the bathroom by myself. When my classmate, Caitlin, came to check up on me she screamed when she saw the sink full of blood and all over my face.
Yearbooks, “remember me”. I loved Hamtaro and said I was Hamtaro’s #1 fan. I joined the track and field team but couldn’t make it to the actual track and field meet. We had a substitute Asian teacher who taught us for most of the year. My original teacher’s name sounded like the word marshmallow. I was good at basketball (I know… even I don’t know if it’s a real memory or not). My mom would always come up to school and give me a freshly cooked lunch or McDonald’s. I gave a really long public speech about Neopets. They built a new playground. We got a new principal, I didn’t like her. I knew a classmate who used to ride a horse to school. There were a lot of kids that lived on my street and neighborhood but my parents never let me play outside with them because it was dangerous. I went on MSN a lot. I confessed to my friend that I lied to her over the phone. I had to do a nose surgery because my nosebleeds were so severe I’d lose too much blood. I won something from the school fair every year in the raffle draw.
Hmm… and now reading this again I am not so sure I should share this childhood with the Internet.
Last week I was having dinner with a friend who grew up in HK. We shared stories of our childhood and I never really realized how big the contrast was. My friend simply said, “When I think of my childhood, I think of how I went to school and tried to study hard. And after school I’d go to cram school or tutor and study harder.”
When I think of my childhood, I think of that big hill next to my house. I think of hop-scotch and handshake games and grass and tall trees, picking flowers (weeds?) and plucking berries off bushes and eating them right away. Everything is green and sunny. And when I try to think of a childhood in HK, I can’t help but see apartment buildings and gray streets and people bustling across the street to wherever they need to go.
I don’t know what my father was thinking when he decided to immigrate to Canada. I don’t know if I can ever do what he and my mother did- leave everything and everyone behind and go to some strange country by themselves. My father says the reason we left HK was because of me and my sister. Because Canada is better for children.
I guess he wanted to give me a better childhood.
And he did.