Growing Up Asian

So, my housemate links me this video, and goes ‘You have gotta see this.’

He’s a mutt, so before anyone screams racist, his Dad was from India; so when I brought home some indian sweets the other week, he just couldn’t get excited; though he did tell me the store I got it from had some delicious spicy stuff – and I guess that explains his cast iron stomach.

Anyway, a lot of this was relatable – some wasn’t,  because I had an allowance, for example, and while my dad, oddly enough, never really pushed me to have super good grades, my mom kind of did; even though my grades were pretty good (80+ to 90s… well, except PE and Filipino, because I hated those classes) and I spent my youth pretty much with my head buried in a book. I’m not really sure what gave me my study ethic, other than “if I get this all done and out of the way already I can go do stuff I like to do” so I tended to do my homework during recess (which some teachers had issues with, and some didn’t; but this saved my ass in college because holy crap the reams of homework I had to come home with.) These days kids barely have a fraction of the seatwork or homework we had! Such low standards these days… /asianmomgrumbling

Some of the stuff that is thought of as bizzare I actually understand though. I had a friend who had the ‘bring something for your host when you go visiting, usually food’ drummed into her as part of good manners. It’s the thought of being grateful to your host for welcoming you in, and in case your host hasn’t got anything ready/is too poor to be a proper host, you have something that can be shared and spare the host embarrassment. So face is saved and food and company enjoyed.

I used to get the white hair thing too, but when my mom would get such a session, it was more a bonding and meandering conversation thing. Unfortunately for my children, they are not getting that experience because I gleefully enjoy every single white hair I am getting, with the hope that I am going to go completely white haired by the age of sixty. They get a small allowance from me and Rhys, enough maybe so if they wanted they could buy a small meal from a fast food joint or save up for something. Vincent has noticed that he takes much better care of his things than his peers though, and because he is able to value things, he gets ‘cool stuff’ like Frostmourne.

While we were preparing for my brother’s wedding, my Mom was telling Rhys about an odd little superstition that she whimsically recalled out of the blue. Some cultures have a thing about pinning money to the bride’s dress; in the case of others, cash gifts (on top of) as wedding presents. One of the things she remembered was that for her generation and older, it was considered a thing of good luck and wealth and fortune to be gifted a chamber pot (an arinola) for one’s wedding. Mom burst into giggles, admitting that she’d been terrified that she and my father would be gifted a lot of chamber pots, and what was one supposed to do with a pile of the things?

But why a chamber pot? Why was that supposed to be a symbol of good fortune (particularly, wealth?) Mom couldn’t remember just then, but figured such a strange thing ‘probably came from the Chinese.’ I remembered we had chamber pots when I was very little, and that they were still commonly used in a number of houses. Mom, of course, could not resist telling Rhys about the time when my younger brother and I (I think I might have been three? or younger) mixed together a whole large bottle of Johnson’s baby powder and that pink Johnson’s baby lotion in our (clean) chamber pot. My aunt, who had given the powder and lotion laughed when she heard about it, and bought more. I have only the vaguest memory that we were trying to make pink icing or something.

Some weeks later, when I was back in Australia, I rang her up to catch up and she told me she’d figured out the chamber pot thing. ‘Shopkeepers at the markets and sari sari stores would keep their money in a chamber pot. A clean one that’s never been used for anything else, but, it’s what people used to keep them in before, instead of drawers or cash registers.’

And, yep, I did remember seeing people keep their money in chamber pots – even when I was a teenager, I’d see some folks at the local markets using them to keep their money in; mostly the smaller bills and the coins; larger bills were kept in wallets, under one’s clothes. I suppose they were very convenient – a pot, pretty large, with a handle on it’s side, and a lid, and somewhat unlikely to get stolen, since you didn’t know back then if that chamber pot was being used for it’s original purpose. And maybe back in the day, that’s where people would hide some of their money until they could deposit it in the bank?

Brings a whole ‘nother meaning to the whole ‘pots of money’ phrase, doesn’t it? ^,^;

These times though, I don’t think that would work any more. I mean, most people wouldn’t even recognise a chamber pot nowadays. I don’t think most folks under the age of thirty would, even from back in the Philippines, unless they came from a household that still used them.

I did find myself idly wondering if they had miniature chamber pot replicas somewhere, for the symbolic invitation of wealth. … You know what, they do! I’ll have to send one to my brother, for a giggle.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.