Once, a friend came to visit. He walked past a row of framed family photographs and pointed to one, saying “I didn’t know you’d been to Paris?”
I’d never been to Paris. My friend was pointing to a photo of my dad from the 1970s, when my dad had gone to Paris as an engineer for Renault.
I share the same face as my father. We have the same high foreheads, sloping eyes and sharp noses. Looking at our photographs, we could almost be mistaken for each other, if not for each being young in the wrong time periods.
My dad was born in the Chinese year of the tiger, and as far back as I can remember, he’s always been a tiger in my eyes. Strong, independent, with a fierce spirit, leaping from place to place with big, bold strides. As the years have passed, his leaps have gotten shorter, but I look into his eyes, and I still see a young tiger inside.
For all the love he’s given me, I wish his life has turned out better, but it hasn’t always been a bed of roses. My dad built a successful business from nothing, lost it all, and has been fighting to make a comeback since. Like I said, it hasn’t always been a bed of roses.
While my face has always been a splitting image of my dad’s, something happened as I broached my 30s — I got fatter. And my face has filled out with a roundness my dad’s face still doesn’t have in his 60s, but which resembles my mom’s face a lot more.
My mom was born in the Chinese year of the rabbit, and she reminds me of one: a kind soul full of gentleness. As far back as I can remember, she’s been the spirit of love, giving to me and my brothers with every inch of her being. As the years have passed, her hair has turned into snowy shades of white, but her generosity and love has never waned.
Even today, when she gets tired more easily, and I find her falling asleep in front of the TV more often, she still gives everything she has for us; cooking her heart out whenever we all get together for a family dinner.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to know my parents more as the people they are, and not the giants I imagined they were when I was a child. They’ve inspired me, disappointed me, annoyed me and encouraged me. But most importantly, they’ve loved me, and I’ve done my best to love them back.
For their courage, love and generosity in the face of everything we’ve gone through, and for all we — their children — have put them through, I want to tell my mom and dad that you are my heroes, now, forever, and always. I see the tiger and the rabbit every time I look in the mirror, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything or anyone else.