A-Ma is an artist. She picked up some pastels and began dabbling about seven years ago, but now has moved on to winning awards for her oil paintings. That A-Ma would be so gifted is no surprise to me. If Emily Lee is passionate about something, that shit gets done. And for my in-laws, this could never be a doodle-y amateurish pastime. Nope, they establish interest groups, create invitational exhibitions, solicit prizes, and make it all official sounding with names like International Taiwanese Artists Teacher’s Society. (Which totally exists.) Around the same time A-Ma started churning out fruit-on-table and beach scenes, A-Gong developed a love of photography. This aligned temporally with his love of Ebay and acquisition of many, many, many cameras. Again, my in-laws are not content to tool around collecting snapshots for the family albums. Nope, they arrange expensive tours to take sunrise and sunset pictures all over the planet, and then host elaborate photo exhibitions like a 21st century version of vacation slideshows our parent’s generation used to bore their neighbors with in the 70s. Only theirs has an awards ceremony. But no cheese cubes.
Both of my in-laws are really quite talented. Not that I have an artistic eye at all, but the portraits undoubtedly resemble the family members A-Ma is rendering, and A-Gong has captured some incredible rice paddy panoramas, birds-in-flight, fireworks, flowers, icicles, leaves, rocks, sky (as his hoarding tendencies spill over into photo editing). Occasionally I think we live in the Lee & Lee auxiliary gallery, but I love having these framed, beautiful paintings and photos on the walls. Sometimes I’ll find the art show tag on the corner, with teeny tiny Chinese figures I assume is a description or price. But if I’m really lucky, someone has translated the title into English.
I don’t know they are attempting some sort of poetry, but the titles are just fantastic. A picture of my toy-sharing toddlers is entitled, “Friendlines, Respectfulness.” And the latest addition to our walls is a really rather large painting of Teddy squatting atop a jungle gym. It’s A-Ma’s latest oil masterpiece and its submission to a Cape Cod art exhibition required her to choose a name and price for an almost-life-size rendering of my little boy. I still wonder if the judges giggled as much as Bernie and I have about “Leisure Boy, $5000.”
I figure displaying their artwork all over my houses gives me leave to poke all sorts of fun at them. But after three paragraphs of doing just that I realize there is a lesson to learn from the wacky and wonderful industry of my in-laws. They’d never wait for a faraway editor to find something worth publishing from a CarePage. Nope, they’d form their own International Society of Taiwanese Web Writers, invite guest authors, solicit prizes, and organize more cheese cube-less forums. The confidence, bravery, and commitment A-Ma and A-Gong bring to their artwork elevates it far beyond “hobby.” I kind of love that. Alternatively, it’s just another Asian thing: why bother slapping paint on canvas unless there are prizes and someone wins?
Although writing these silly essays continues to be fun and therapeutic, the attempt at chronicling my life into a book feels vain (even for me) and forced and blah blah blah boring. But as I watched A-Gong design his own Chinese blog about Energy Work last weekend, I wondered if it’s time for me to get this show on the road. I still giggle over what Steve Safran wrote when I first announced the existence of these CarePages:
“Here are several problems I have with this.
1. It being “Care Pages” makes me feel I need to be sincere. As you know, this is a character defect of mine.
2. There will be caring, loving statements on this page.
3. While I care and love, I express those emotions in somewhat different ways. As in through a total lack of caring and loving.
4. Those who care and love are bound to see my statements and feel I am wishing terrible things upon you.
5. I am not. I am wishing terrible things upon most non-Jews, but not you, a TOTAL shiksa goddess.”
And now that I’m feeling so great, maybe my little ditties are ready for an audience that isn’t expressly asked and required to Care, at a site that doesn’t sensor my use-for-emphasis potty mouth, and isn’t so buggy with the logging in. As I toyed with blog design late last night I got stuck at the very first step: I need a title. Shiksagoddessbritt.com? (Which totally exists. And it’s me. Thanks, Steve.) Leisure Boy 5000? East Meets Breast? That every title embodying the scariest, faith-testing time in my life is somehow silly and funny says oodles about how much having an audience has helped me through it. Wherever these musings land, I hope you’ll find me there.