I don’t visit home often, mostly because I don’t own a car and my parents live out in the middle of nowhere (nb. suburbia to me is nowhere) and it’s about 90-120 minutes in transit by public transport. I wish I did it more frequently though because it always reminds me of how much I miss them and I wish I didn’t have to feel like I missed them.
My parents and I don’t have a classic nuclear child-parent relationship where we talk every day about our lives, our work, our friends or our family. Nevertheless, it’s very much a mutual understanding of love and security being in each others’ presence and knowing that we’re eating well, working hard and generally happy. I obviously know that my mum cares about me when she asks me: “Do you want to eat some chicken feet and tripe? You used to love it but now you say it’s ‘yuck’. How about this potato? Do you want this potato?” And later, “I’ve got a bag of frozen dim sims, a bag of chocolate, fifty billion packets of chips and oh, this quilt. Are you warm? Do you want this quilt? Take the quilt.” (She says this all to me in a mixture of Khmer and English because she still thinks that I can’t understand her). I also know she cares when she incessantly asks me to stay the night and offers to drive me back to Fitzroy in the morning. Sometimes the guilt-trip is so bad I consider for a miniscule of a second about moving back home but immediately remember how bad of an idea that would be.
While I was home I raided my mum’s vast collection of family photos. Not just of us, but of my countless aunts and uncles and cousins. The photo above is of my parents in the 80s, and I wonder where it was taken (I believe that is my cousin Mxnxcx there, who funnily enough, is just about to give birth to her own little baby). They’re so young and fresh-faced and I forget how pretty my mum was, and is. It wouldn’t have been long ago that they were in Cambodia, fleeing a country plagued by war and death. I wonder what they were like there, in their early 20s, how hard and scary it would have been leaving a home and coming to a new, strange Western world. I get pangs in my chest thinking about it sometimes because I could never conceive those feelings. And again knowing they’ve paved their own lives here and given me so many opportunities to live a fulfilled life of my own.
At my cousin Sxxn’s 40th, looking around and talking to my family members, I toyed around again with the idea of interviewing everyone and writing down our family history (or even as a video documentary). Our family has no records. They’re all destroyed or missing, lost forever. Could you imagine what my family tree would look like? For a large family like ours, there are so many amazing stories from Cambodia, tales of survival and love and family and death and sacrifice. It would be a shame to lose that part of our history; I think knowing where you come from is a luxury many people take for granted.
It sounds like a wonderful idea, I know, but it’s also a massive project that would require a lot of time, commitment, effort and participation which I don’t think I’m quite ready for right now. It would be nice to do before I’m 30 though.