Sunday, November 23, 2008


In September, I told you about my grandmother, with whom I share a birthday. Well, I'm sorry to tell you that on Nov. 13, she died.

Lance, Ting Ting and I made a quick trip home to Tennessee to spend time with family. It was nice to laugh and share stories with people that we see far less often than we would like. And it was wonderful to see the outpouring of love in the little town where my grandmother spent most of her 96 years on this earth.

My grandmother loved visiting with Ting Ting, who charmed and delighted her, and she always requested new stories when I called to chat. Still, I was humbled by the number of people at the visitation who asked my sisters and me (after Ting Ting had left), "now which of you is the mother of the little girl?" Clearly, Ting Ting had been the topic of much happy conversation.

Funerals are always a bittersweet experience. We shed a few tears at the memories revived by old photos (OK, I'll admit, some of those tears were laughter at the sight of me in those glasses, but at least I didn't have that shag haircut, Beth) and retold favorite family stories. We all loved my grandmother and will miss her very much.

But mostly we celebrate our joy in a long life, well-lived.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Ting Ting is a Rachel is a Ting Ting

The music teacher, Ms. Margaret, had already started her lesson when Ting Ting and I arrived the other day.

"Good morning, Ting Ting!" said Ms. Margaret.

Ting Ting stared at her.

"My name is Rachel," she said.

"Oh," said Ms. Margaret. "I know your name is Rachel, but I thought we called you Ting Ting."

"My name is Rachel," repeated my daughter.

Ms. Margaret and Ms. Kathryn looked at . . . Rachel . . .and looked at me. I shrugged.

"News to me," I said.

That night at dinner I asked her about it.

"Do you want us to call you Rachel?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"Can we call you Ting Ting sometimes?"

"No. I don't like Ting Ting," she said.

Ummm, OK.

So I said, "well, Mama and Daddy picked the name Rachel for you because we think it's a beautiful name. I'm happy you want us to call you that. But I might forget sometimes and call you Ting Ting, so please give me time to get used to it, OK?"

Lance negotiated his own deal.

"Can I still call you Tingsters?" he asked.

She thought it over then gave him a thumbs up. He gave her a thumbs up. They both laughed.

The next morning when I took her to her classroom, I said, "Goodbye, Ting Ting."

The little boy sitting next to her looked up at me and said, sweetly, "Her name Rachel."


We called our daughter Ting Ting at first because it's the nickname for her original name (now her middle name), and we wanted to be consistent at a time when her whole world was being turned upside down. We have kept calling her that because it's unique, true to her history, and, well, it just seems to fit.

And, after all, it's her name.

I always figured that we'd switch her to Rachel eventually, although leaving Shu-Ting as her middle name gives her the option to use it if she prefers.

When I think about it logically, those are the things I think about. But when she told me the other day that she wants to be called Rachel instead of Ting Ting, I just wanted to cry, "don't grow up so fast!"

I mean, I figured we could call her Ting Ting at least until she started medical school.

For the record, she has never once corrected me when I called her Ting Ting, and she still refers to herself that way most of the time. It's hard to know whether she's serious about being called Rachel or if was just a whim.

But she's the boss. We'll follow her lead.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sharing the wealth

Once she had finished her own trick-or-treating (and had sampled some of her loot), Ting Ting got interested in what was going on at the front door.

She wanted to pass out candy to "all da kids" still to come.

She did a pretty good job of helping out

(even though she was tempted to try some of the candy while she waited).

Anyone else coming? I'm ready!

Ting Ting for president

I avoid talking about politics on this blog -- after all, if I want to argue about the candidates or the issues I can just have a conversation with members of my family. But many of you know I'm a journalist, and I happen to work for the newspaper in President-elect Obama's home town. I spent Tuesday night (and the early hours of Wednesday) helping to cover the big story. But when I was driving home to my slumbering household, the true significance of what had happened Tuesday began to sink in: Because of this election, my daughter will never know a world where only white men serve as president.

Ting Ting was sound asleep, oblivious to the significance of this day. But my heart filed with pride as I thought of how much this election had changed the world for my Asian daughter. Someday she'll read in her history books about how we used to think that people wouldn't vote for a black (or Asian or Latino) person or that a woman wasn't a viable presidential candidate, and she'll shake her head at how ridiculous we were. It took us way too long to reach this point, but I'm so glad we're finally here, for my daughter's sake as well as my own.

Of course, we still have that pesky problem of the Constitution requiring the president to be a "natural born citizen" of the U.S. . . .

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Then and now -- Halloween edition

Cyrus, Mom and Ting Ting on Halloween night 2007.

And in 2008 (yes, I realize neither Cyrus nor I is looking at the camera, but you don't come here to see us, now, do you?)