“My daddy is an astronaut,” or so I thought.
As most middle class Hong Kong families did back in the 80s in fear of the great 97 handover, my family moved to Canada when I was about three years old to sit out our four year immigration “prison sentence.” While my mother and I spent much of this time in domestic bliss in Toronto, I imagined my father in a suit, floating around in space when he was not with us. In reality, he was frequently flying between Canada and Hong Kong so he can get his passport and work at the same time. Such a person was commonly known back in the days as an astronaut.
In that sense, I guess my mother and I were kind of astronauts as well. We flew back and forth a lot too. My mother grew up surrounded by a large and boisterous family in Hong Kong, and could not stand the cold and radio silence of Toronto. She barely spoke English or knew anyone there at the time, so there really was only so much she could do. There were only so much pretend telephone conversations and meals (real and make belief) one can have with a chatty three year old; and only so much one can shop at Eaton and “Hope Renview” (it was only much later that I found out that my mother’s favourite store was actually Holt Renfrew).
Kindergarten was only a distant afterthought. I did not have time for it, and I hated it. I cried so much my first day, my mother, the softie that she is, gave in and let me stayed home afterwards. The school principal called a few days later to find out where I went.
While others remember stealing kisses from the girl on the bus, I remember playing the drums by myself next to the window, waiting for my mother to show up. Even at such a precocious age, when children still played indiscriminately, I failed to connect with anyone. Later this would lead to years of self-doubt and confidence issues. But at that moment, I just spaced out, anxiously waiting for my mother to come pick me up.