Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My name is ___________.

For the first time yesterday, I called myself Cheryl Chen instead of my maiden name, Cheryl Wong.  We were talking about voting over dinner and how I thought I could simply change my voter registration information when I changed the information on my driver's license, but then I learned you had to go to the voter registration people in addition and tell them, "Hey, I moved and changed my name."

The verbal mistake was probably understandable.  I said, "So, I had to go tell the voter registration people, 'My name is Cheryl Chen and I moved and I need to change my name.'"  Then, I quickly corrected myself.  "I mean, Cheryl Wong."

My natural response to the statement, "My name is..." ended with "Cheryl Chen."

I've spent approximately 96% of my life as a Wong.  It's taken me about 3.5% of my life getting used to changing my last name.  I didn't change my name just because it was the "normal" thing for a woman to do when she gets married; I liked the symbolism of a name change.

How many times we pass over these little moments that reveal so much.  It may sound melodramatic to some, but in lives of transition (which defines most of our's), these pivotal instances make the biggest of differences.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When Family Is More Than Blood

Photography by Kenneth J. Wong Photography
 A few weeks ago, we took our first family portrait that included the newest additions to my family. It was a big deal to my family.  My family of six has always been loving but also tight-knit and exclusive, putting up a protective wall of sarcasm and an armor of cold shoulders to defend from invaders.  The family unit resisted when I first tried to invite my then boyfriend (now husband) to the sacred Christmas tree decorating tradition.  How dare I invite an outsider to something just for family members?

For my birthday, my sister-in-law gave me a necklace she purchased while in Africa on missions.  It was a small pearl heart on a delicate gold chain.  She bought one for me, herself, her sister, and my mother-in-law.  To be included in the gift meant the world to me.  I was one of the Chen women.

I am strong advocate of family, but I have to admit, though I might not have verbalized it, prior to my marriage, family was blood only.  People could get close, but family was a non-negotiable.

However, as time goes on, my concept of family is changing.  I am beginning to find that the family unit in America is too broken and fragile to only let blood-related people to pass as family.  The steadfast, unconditional loyalty and love that comes with being family needs to extend past the walls of our home. 

As one of my friends recently posted: "I will always believe that families are not born, they're made."

For those who have family, we must cling to them.  Such a thing is precious and something worthy of protection.  However, we must also allow for inclusion so that all may know of the unconditional love that a family can give.