By Deborah Jang
Eldest daughter of Gong Chow and
Siu Shee, immigrant couple from China.
Born in Richmond, California, north
of San Francisco, just across the bay.
Named Fong Yuet for the ancestors. State-
side she was June. To me, forever Mom.
Fireworks the night before announced
her arrival July fifth nineteen thirty.
Every Independence Day she felt pangs
of affirmative glee -- as if she belonged.
At least to the sky. At nine she was sent
to Chinese school in San Francisco,
an immigrant custom she soon rejected.
She hopped on the Greyhound bus alone,
rode home to her parents’ chagrin.
At Richmond Elementary she joined
the harmonica band, worked the restaurant
after school, did not miss a shift.
During wartime the family moved
to the valley, where June was a big hit.
Team debater, class treasurer, best-dressed
girl at Merced High — she had it going on.
Chinese pilots training at the air base
lined up for her dance card. She tango’d,
cha-cha’d, bunny hopped with gusto
and soft laughter. Got a job downtown
Merced selling ladies dresses. Took up with
the owner who promised to promote her.
Post-war, Gong Chow had made plans
to return to China. The story goes June
said NO, kept her little sister with her
while the ship dipped off horizon.
June and sis stayed with Monroe, the now
betrothed store owner. He promised
her folks his good care but didn’t really
follow through, so June then divorced him
Though not before the three of us claimed
her heart forever. Dave Allen was the next guy.
With him she bore two more sons, of Chinese
Irish extraction. Bridge clubs, soccer,
cul-de-sacs filled her American sky. Especially
on July fourth her urgent eyes scanned
the night for oomph pah pah, or maybe
something keener. By now we lived back
by the bay. It was the flowered sixties.
Her five young grew out their hair,
while she and Dave plied the days
with good times, hard work, harder drink.
He died young, she carried on, the children
ventured forth. Her last man was Ken Wilkins,
though there were others in between - all this
to say, she enjoyed the company of fellows.
When Ken passed it hit her hard. The children
couldn't save her. At sixty-two June was through.
We sprinkled her at sea. I strike the gong.
It rumbles wide, ripples up night sky.
Where do the good, kindhearted go?
To lipstick smiles
left on napkins perfectly
half stuck on rims
where gin and tonics flowed
Gliding long as fingertips
that tucked me into cool
crisp sheets in days when sleep
was easy, a keeper
of shy adorations
nestled in young motherlove
Arpege, Pall Malls, show
tunes, novels, husbands
in a row, loud laughing
turned to shouting
or big whispers
then to fragile mornings after
Scrabble, dim sum, Niners,
Now to ashes dancing
at the gate, not
missing one last beat.
© Deborah Jang. All Rights Reserved.
Deborah Jang writes her way through the mysteries, perplexities, and joys of being human — on this planet, at this moment, in this skin. She is also a visual artist, engaging connection through forms and objects. She wanders between Denver, CO and Oceanside, CA; between mind and heart; between land and sea. She invites you to visit her website at deborahjang.com
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