All-american Gong Girl

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 
midnight parties 
turned to shouting 
or big whispers 
then to fragile mornings after 

Scrabble, dim sum, Niners,
grandkids 

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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