In Bound Feet Blues, the show, I recount the story of how my parents met – as told to us by my mother when we were kids. On stage, I become my mother as we all curl up in bed and she tells the romantic story of meeting the man who would become her husband.
“How we first met” is a genre of the oral storytelling tradition within families – and also among circles of friends. We all want to know where we come from – even, or especially, as young children. We are trying to figure out who we are and what being alive means. Hearing how our parents met gives us the context and if we’re lucky, it tells us we were born from love.
In my story performance, I can only tell the one story ie about how my mother met my father. But there are a number of “how we met” stories in my family. The show is only one hour long – which amounts to 25 pages of text. In the book Bound Feet Blues: The Stories behind the Story that I am currently writing, I have more room to tell those other stories as well.
Here is an extract, telling the love story of my grandparents, my mother’s mum and dad:
“It was funny to think of Grandma and Grandpa – well, before they became Grandma and Grandpa. We loved leafing through their photo album and seeing them so young and fresh-faced, Grandpa in those baggy ‘30s style trousers and Grandma in pretty cheongsams and chunky high heels of that time. It was odd to see them in our minds as two young medical students, hanging out with their pals and horsing around in such a scandalous way. It was odd to see a photo of Grandpa playing rugby and running in a race, looking hunky and sweaty, his Brylcreemed hair flying in the wind.
“I would go and watch him play matches-lah,” Grandma said coyly. “And then he notice me always there and he came over and talk to me…”
When he proposed to her, they were walking up on a hill overlooking Singapore. He gave her a ring he had found in the street. “It’s just for now,” he had said. “I don’t have anything of my own now. But one day, I promise you, I will give you diamonds.”
It seemed to me, listening to Grandma tell her stories, that for her and Grandpa, their love story was about more than just their individual lives. When her story and his came together on the edge of that rugby field, they became part of a larger, multi-stranded single story – the story of our family. Their love story, as simple as it was, like so many sweetheart stories of boy meets girl at college, was also about dynasty. Not in the sense of kings and power and empire but dynasty in the sense of a family in the continuum of time, of knowing where we have come from and a passing on of ourselves to the next generation.”
What are the love stories in your family history?
If you’d like share them with me and the Bound Feet Blues readers, please do so via the Comments below – or you can email me via the Contact page. I’d love to hear your stories!
This blog post is part of Women’s History Month
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