I believe that the heart of who we are is captured in a single word—family. It’s the source of our deepest wounds, and it’s our greatest strength.
This is a theme that weaves through my work. It’s why I write a column called Family Matters, which appears in three United States newspapers.
This theme is also apparent in the stories I published in two recent books Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom (March 2010) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad (April 2010).
I was born in Hong Kong in 1962. My mother divorced my father and brought me to America in 1968 because she wanted an opportunity for a better life.
In 1996, I returned to Hong Kong for the first time with my mother, and we went into mainland China to visit my grandparents’ graves. The journey to Hong Kong and China changed my life and inspired me to write a memoir.
I went from being an isolated and self-absorbed person to a man who would come to value my family above all else. An excerpt from the memoir appears in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom.
Accompanied by my mother, I traveled to my grandparents’ gravesite in a small rural town in China called Tai Shan. At the foot of my ancestors’ headstone, I experienced a spiritual awakening about the grandparents I never met, the mother I never appreciated, and the life in America I took for granted.
The story is about peeling off the layers of pretense and embracing an unwavering truth. I came to understand my mom and her struggles for the first time.
In Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad, I wrote about my stepfather, a deeply wounded man who used alcohol to escape his pain. Over the years, my stepfather has been absent in my life, and I have held a lot of resentment toward him, but there is one memory I will always cherish: he taught me how to ride my first bike. This story is featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad.
I’m grateful to have these stories in the Chicken Soup books because it’s my way of expressing my appreciation to my mother and stepfather for raising me.
In our society, we tend to blame parents for their mistakes. I’m no different. For much of my life, I’ve held my parents responsible for so many perceived wrongs.
Now I’d like to thank them for the things they did right. I am going out to colleges, libraries, bookstores, and other venues to talk about the stories in these books. I’ll also speak about the importance of self-responsibility and how to let go of blame.
Both books can be ordered from my Web site, Family Matters,” www.raywong.info.
Ray M. Wong lives in California with his wife and children.