The ‘Family Tree’ is like a complicated mathematical problem—that cannot be solved using algebra.
Instead, the only way to see the full picture is in the form of diagrams. First, you draw yourself. Then, you add your father and mother just above you. If you know your uncle and aunt, draw them beside your parents. And if you still remember your grandparents, add them above your father and mother. Your end result should turn out something like to this:
At this point, you are happy because the first few branches prove to be an easy task. But you start to hit a roadblock once you realize that your great, great grandparents never made history through World War I. And in an instant, everything you thought you could find out about your family line, vanishes.
Well, if you’re anything like me, you’d probably go back to watching Gossip Girl on Netflix, because it is much easier to swoon over the irresistible Ed Westwick, who plays bad boy ‘Chuck Bass’. But even I know more about Chuck Bass’s family than I do, mine. And that was when my friend, Caryn, dropped the bomb for the very first time.
“No, I mean, where are you really from?”
“I live in Toronto.”
“So you were born in Toronto?”
“No, I was born in Singapore.” I said.
“Oh! So your grandparents are Singaporeans!”
“No, they’re from Calabasas, LA.”
The cruel truth is, if you are an Asian living anywhere apart from Asia, you’ve probably been asked this question, ‘where are you really from’, more than once. And of all the introductory questions I dread, this is at the top of my list because I never really know how to respond.
Do they want to know where I’m from as in where I live? Or do they want to know where I was born? My grandparents are from Calabasas, and my great grandparents are half Italian. But both of my parents are Singaporeans because they were born there. So what type of Asian, exactly, am I?
I’ve come to realize when people ask me this question, they don’t want to know the geographical co-ordinates of where I was born or raised. Instead, they want a breakdown on where my roots are, based on the color they see on my skin. They want to hear that I’m from a different country because I look different. I sound different. I act different. Of all the similarities that I possess along with anyone else, they are looking for that one-percent difference.
The distance between Singapore and Calabasas, LA might be 8,769 miles apart, but in reality, it is hardly that far when the blood of two generations, still runs through me.
Featured image by Crystallenia