For Part 1, click here.
I met my step-grandparents the first time on Christmas Day as Mom woke me up that morning. I must had been very tired or maybe I was still getting used to the 15-hour time difference.
Everyone had congregated in the living room, each with a pile of gifts before them. “Everyone is waiting for you,” Mom said and instructed me to sit on the step of the fireplace where a large pile of presents sat. I have presents? I remember wondering. These people hardly know me.
Awkward, shy, and foreign, I sat on the stone step between the ginormous Christmas tree and the roaring fire as we went around in a circle opening presents. As my mom set down her present, she turned to me, gave me a nod, letting me know it was my turn. I stared at the pile before me and randomly picked one – a small gift bag.
Inside was a pair of pink socks – something I still wear from time-to-time today – I shyly muttered a “thank you,” as my step-grandmother and step-aunt smiled widely at me. I would later come to know they were the only people, beside my step-father, who would always put on a smile no matter what.
I was the one with the most presents that Christmas. I remember by the end, after everyone had finished opening all of their presents, I still had a small pile before me. I felt my cheeks blush and reddened because I felt I was specially treated and deep down, after how I was treated the past three years (the consistent punishment for every little things, being constantly moved around, and being lectured by my aunts and uncles about not being a good person), I didn’t think I deserved it.
A lot of the presents turned out to be very useful. I got a few notebooks, color pencils, crayons, pencils, pens, and a journal. “When you start school next month, we won’t have to buy many supplies.” Mom told me later as she helped put my presents in a bag.
Until dinner, the day went by uneventfully. I was becoming addicted to solitaire as played the game on my step-uncle’s computer. I became very good at it after I saw him play a game.
“Are you ready to go?” Mom asked later that afternoon.
“To grandma’s house for Christmas dinner.”
The interior of my step-grandparents’ home was surprising exactly like my step-aunt’s except much neater. It’s like my step-aunt’s house would look exactly like this if someone went and cleaned it. Step-grandmother quilted for hobby, I’d find out, and every Christmas, she would have someone help her hang her Christmas quilt on the living room wall.
That night, dinner consisted of a large ham, mashed sweet potatoes, mash potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, and many other side dishes. I remember this meal because I remember thinking, “this isn’t ham, ham came in a can.” In China, ham is equal to Spam or luncheon meat. I took a bite of the real ham and thought it was dry and tough, nothing like the can stuff.
It was the third night of small meals for me as I was not at all used to these foreign foods. I wasn’t as open to world cuisines back then as I am now despite using the past three years acclimating and preparing myself for life in the western world. Many things such as all the English I learned were rendered almost useless the moment I landed in the U.S.
To be concluded…
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