My father’s story.

Country roads, take me home / To the place I belong

West Virginia, mountain mama / Take me home, country roads

This is one of my dad’s favorite songs. Not that unusual, except when you realize my Dad was born in Taiwan in the 1950’s and emigrated to America in his early twenties for a Masters in textile engineering in Massachusetts.

West Virginia isn’t his home; his country roads lead to Fongshan, a small town in Taiwan.

Yet my dad loves Westerns and to this day, wears cowboy-styled shirts with pearl buttons, chest detailing, and elaborate embroidery…

After tackling each of the relationships in my nuclear family, it’s fitting that my final essay for AAPI Month is about my relationship with myself, and my hard-won journey to respect and value myself.

Growing up, my mother used to occasionally call me “Xiǎo ādāi”, which I thought was a common Chinese endearment. I thought it was the equivalent of the American “honey” or “sweetie” or “babycakes”, because when she would croon these words at me, her whole face would light up with love and affection.

It wasn’t until school or high school that I was at the house of…

Growing up, when people asked if we argued or fought, we’d collectively look at each other, smile — pause to think — then shake our heads:

“No, we just don’t really argue.” And it was true.

That was then; this is now.

This year felt like the unraveling of our sisterhood. The same polarization out there in the media — red and blue, left and right, right and wrong — showed up in our conversations. Harsh words were said; phone calls ended abruptly. Anger, denial, rage, grief.

If we’re being precise, the cracks in the road, the forks in our…

Growing up, I would’ve said my most contentious relationship was with my mother — and that my even-tempered, patient, and understanding dad was the easier parent.

But in adulthood, it’s switched: the few times I’ve completely lost my sh*t (ie: yelled at the top of my lungs) have been with my dad, from whom I get my ability to synthesize, optimize, and prioritize information. (Oddly, I also get my love of writing, poetry, and sentimental streak from my dad, who still picks roses for my mother to this day and talks about the essay contest he won in 6th grade).

In second grade, I wrote an essay about my mother and won a school-wide contest. I can’t remember the full essay, but it was mostly about how historically, in Chinese culture, to be born a woman was to be second class — and to be a second child even worse — and my mother was both! And then there was me, the third daughter in a family of three girls, and how I wouldn’t even have existed if my grandparents hadn’t fled Communist China in 1949, with their 2 children, their firstborn son and my mother.

I remember three things:

Tiffany Teng

Former East Coast, now West Coast. Lover of books, baking and all things beautiful. Writing & reading about identity, growth, and leadership. Stanford ’07, ‘19.

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