My mother, myself

August 30, 2012 · 25 comments

in Inspiration, Relationships

Post image for My mother, myself

So today, I need you to help me write this blog post. I’ll do my part by supplying an iconic image from my childhood. One look and I’ll bet you’ll instantly understand a lot about my personal issues. My hope is that you can explain what happened to me.

I can still remember the day this memorable image became tattooed on my brain. We were still living in Lyndhurst, N.J. and hadn’t moved yet to New York City. We didn’t relocate to Chinatown until I was nine, which means that I was probably seven or eight on this day.

Well, there we were — Mom, me and my younger sister, sitting around the formica-topped dining table. In front of us was a rectangular cookie tin. On its lid was the image of a very pretty white lady in a strapless blue evening gown. Her long white gloves were so elegant! And she was holding red roses, my mother’s favorite flower!

We’d recently finished the butter cookies that came in the box. Now, my mother was wiping out the last of the crumbs. But for some reason, she was staring at the picture of the beautiful lady and frowning.

Next thing I knew, Mom was holding a pair of sharp scissors and a scrap of blue contact paper. Have you ever used contact paper?  It’s plasticized sheeting with self-adhesive backing, often used for lining shelves. That’s what Mom used it for — until that particular day…

She cut that contact paper into the shape of a little jacket. Then she peeled off the backing and covered the white lady’s bare shoulders and cleavage. After that, my mother smiled, satisfied.

During her lifetime, my mom used the box to store sewing buttons. When I was in my I-hate-my-mother 30s, I snuck it out of my mother’s apartment and took the box with me to one of my therapy sessions so that my shrink could see first-hand how I was raised; by the end of my 50 minutes, both of us were laughing out loud.

After Mom went into the nursing home and we cleaned out her apartment, the box and the buttons went into one of my closets. Ever since Mom’s death, I’ll occasionally take out the cookie tin. Holding it’s solid shape is somehow comforting now. I can even smile too. Although, I’m quite sure my mother and I are smiling for different reasons.

Your thoughts?   :)

Original copyrighted work by Betty Ming Liu

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

mj August 30, 2012 at 7:51 am

wait, you’re telling me you still have this covered up?


Toby August 30, 2012 at 7:59 am

Well, the jacket IS rather a nice design – a period piece of course but it works with the gown. Perhaps your mother was simply expressing her inner true self as a would-be fashionista. Possibly she had recently read an article on “clever things to do with contact paper” and was looking for opportunities. Perhaps it was an expression of a thwarted childhood desire for paper dolls, long pent-up but bursting forth at last, precipitated by the unexpected congruence of contact paper and biscuit tin. Or there may have been some dreadful experience with an out-of-control décolleté long buried in her past, in which an untoward exposure occurred, thus creating a trauma that resurfaced with horror when the biscuit tin served as a reminder. There are numerous possibilities to be considered.
On the other hand, maybe it was just a survival of Victorian sensibilities. My great aunt Sophie considered piano legs to be slightly indecent and draped her Beckstein to the floor, lest a storm of passions be released in any young people who happened by. None ever did but you can’t be too careful, after all.


lee August 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

About 25 years ago I visited rural China with my wife. In the near tropical heat it was common to see any woman younger than, say, 45 walking around in shorts, but the upper body was always covered at least in a tee shirt. There were no strappy tops, no bare shoulders, etc. I think that traditional Chinese interpretations of decency require that a woman’s upper body be covered, and perhaps your mother was simply trying to convey that to her two young daughters. As a father of two girls myself, I am sure that at some future date they will laugh out loud (if they already haven’t) at some of the things I have done as well.


betty ming liu August 30, 2012 at 9:05 am

MJ, I would never, ever think of peeling off the jacket!

Toby, my mom was probably like your Aunt Sophie. They probably would’ve gotten along very well. My mother also always told me, “A lady never shows her teeth when she smiles.” Oy.

And yes, Lee, my mom was big on modesty and appropriate garb. Skin is too sexy!


Denise August 30, 2012 at 9:20 am

Great post, Betty. I have such a vivid image of you and your mom. I can totally understand bringing the box to therapy! And keeping it. And writing about it. By the way, although it’s not ‘loaded’ in the same way, I still have the old cookie tin of my grandmother’s buttons.
Does your sister remember the event at all? It’s so interesting to me that siblings often remember their childhood as if they had grown up in different homes….That’s true of my brother and me, even though we are only 11 months apart in age.
By the way, two things are clear: your mom had a strong streak of creativity and a great eye for design.


Skye August 30, 2012 at 9:28 am

Betty, I think your mom and my mom would have seen eye to eye on the cookie tin model. I am sure there upbringings had many similarities for all their differences. My mother was raised in a strict Baptist home in Haiti and she probably would have blushed red as a child if she ever held such a cookie tin in front of her parents. She was taught and incorporated into her own belief system certain aspects of being ladylike and skin was not one of them. When she attends formal functions today, she will not dare wear a sleeveless dress without a shawl.

As a child, I was not permitted to wear pants, actually, until the age of 8 or so. As much as I begged, my mother refused. Even though she and my father were separated, she knew that he wouldn’t like to hear that his daughter was wearing pants somewhere, enticing boys in the sandbox. I was only allowed to wear pants after a schoolteacher told my mother to buy me some pants because I couldn’t keep wearing skirts and frilly church dresses (I wore those almost every day to school!) to gym class. My mother didn’t understand the teacher at first (language barrier), so she bought me a denim skirt and sneakers. When the teacher came and explained to her that I wasn’t comfortable playing in dresses and shiny shoes and more importantly, that my panties were showing, my mother gave in. I slipped in one pair after another until I was wearing pants nearly every day by the time I got to 8th grade. But, lol…I felt cool in my jeans then but my look was killed with the 2 long pigtails my mother would braid tem into, or the traditional Haitian 6 or 7 pigtails! This was not what I wanted when I thought life would just be so much better if I could dress like the girls on the tv show, ”Beverly Hills, 90210.” So I would sneak my mother’s Wet ‘N Wild lipstick to school and put it on in the schoolyard before we lined up for class. Red lips and pigtails, what a sight.

Thinking about your own mother, I know that she was a product of a lot of social and cultural mumbo jumbo that happened long before she had you or was even born. She adopted some of the ways and traditions from others who thought it best. So when she covered up the tin, she surely thought she was doing a good job as a mother to her children and believe it or not, she was doing her best. She was giving you the best of who she was and trying to protect you from whatever she thought others might say about you if you ever stepped out as something so revealing. I think she was loving, protecting and looking out for you. I think that many of the points Toby raised sound quite accurate too. It’s all possible.

As much as that image of your mom’s cutting out the contact paper and dressing the tin startled you, I think it would be interesting to remember that image by inserting this thought: This is Mom’s gift to me, this is a gift she was trying to give. This is Mom’s version of Mama Bear trying to protect her cubs.


Vivien O-S August 30, 2012 at 11:46 am

This is awesome, Betty. I love that you still have this tin. Indeed we all have those growing-up moments – epiphanies, good and bad – “tattooed” (great image!) on our brains. My immediate reaction to this, what jumps out at me, as it has to some of your other commenters: CULTURE-CULTURE-CULTURE. Your immigrant mother was a product of her very strong, rule-bound culture, transplanted into a place and time that felt dangerously “anything goes.” You’re somewhat younger than I am, but you too came of age as a daughter of immigrants during the, well, counterculture. Virtually all parents, in those days, were struggling to hold onto “Father Knows Best” as the kids were grabbing onto sex/drugs/rock-n-roll. For the immigrant parents it was particularly scary, I think. They were more rule-bound, xenophobic, fearful of change and of the new (because they’d had quite enough), clinging to whatever authority they had over their kids, especially daughters (because that was how it was, in the old country), and to the traditions and images that didn’t feel quite so foreign and dangerous. Dangerous images like a ginger-haired white lady with a come-hither look, displaying her shoulders and a hint of cleavage. (Maybe it was Dad she was thinking about, not only you girls, when she fashioned that VERY smart-looking bolero?)
My pious, modest, elegant immigrant ma suffered mightily having a rebellious daughter in the (HS) class of ’69. Her fashion trigger was – get this – blue jeans. Seriously. I can still hear how she spat out the word, with a contemptuous sneer: JEEEENZZZZZ. Up-to-my-butt mini-skirts were okay (because they were cute and man-pleasing?) – but jeans were nasty?? A daughter who went out in jeans (I wasn’t permitted to wear pants to yeshiva) was so…. American, so alien to and different from her. That girl was uber-casual, male-identified, tough, liberated, sitting cross-legged anywhere, . Rubbing up against other blue jeans and unzipping in the back seats of cars…
Tempting to think that such moms gave us anti-sex messages simply because they were prudes, anhedonic, hyper-critical, etc. Maybe that’s true, but it’s not quite so damning (of their psyches/personalities/motivations) when you put CULTURE-CULTURE-CULTURE at the heart of it all. They felt so little control over their lives in those days. And then they see their own children becoming like “the Americans” – the people to whom they felt so invisible, the people who misunderstood and stereotyped them, the people who knew NOTHING of who they really were.
I now see my mom having been quite sexy – a lushly beautiful woman who, throughout her life, turned men’s heads wherever she went. I didn’t, then, because she was overweight, and that’s ALL I saw. Shame on me. One thing she was right about: I never looked all that great in jeans. My butt, even when I was young and slim, was never my best feature.
I really shouldn’t read your blog in the morning when I have a lot of work to do. xo


Mimi Chen August 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

What your post actually showed me was how similar our moms thought. While my mom didn’t have a cookie tin lady to cover, she would make it a point in her evenings out to be covered quite tastefully.

On the other hand, when it came to us young’uns, my mom once turned to me and said, “You can wear the risque clothing when you are young. So go ahead and wear it.” So this is something I tell my kids nowadays, that it’s ok to wear the fun skimpy fashions as a young person. But perhaps not as acceptable for an older lady.


Mimi Chen August 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm

OH and P S, my mom also had a tin of buttons. I guess sewing buttons back on was something they all had to do.


Denise August 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm

My mom and grandparents arrived here from Hungary in 1957 and I was born in1961. My mom was only 19 when I was born, but she was so into (her interpretation) of being American. She was not really comfortable with the student sit-ins, and the more hippie-ish hippies, and didn’t learn to call herself a feminist until much later, but she was very free-thinking, and in some ways radical. She received a great deal of pressure NOT to breast-feed, but resisted, and my parents’ friends ridiculed them for being too child-centered and actually taking us places with them, and taking our desires into account. Except for table manners and favorite dishes no one in my family really held onto traditions from the old country. Maybe because as Holocaust survivors they felt betrayed by their native countries…or maybe it was just their personalities.


Erika Siobahn Kenny August 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I think Skye and Vivien have pegged it. I have a feeling that or was just because on whatever level and for whatever reason, she just wasn’t comfortable with the lady showing so much skin, bit thought it was a beautiful picture nonetheless. The jacket is just her reconciliation, and at least it’s a cute jacket ;-)


betty ming liu August 30, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Just got home from work. How nice to find your comments. If there’s one running theme thru them, it’s the tremendous compassion and empathy you all have for my mother — or rather, our mothers and aunties!

Denise, my sister and I haven’t talked about this cookie tin moment in years but we often have different takes. Sometimes it feels like we were in totally different places and it’s fascinating — and occasionally annoying — to compare note. One thing though, you’re right about my mom’s creativity. I think this incident might have something to do with my life-long fascination with collage. And how great that your mother breast fed; mine did too. They were ahead of their time!

Skye, how interesting that you and Viv both had a thing about pants. And all of you are right, what these women of an earlier generation gave us was the best they could give. If we’re really grown up now, maybe we — I — can be gracious enough to say thank you. Btw, I think pigtails and red lipstick would look pretty sexy now in hipster Williamsburg.

Viv, it never occurred to me that my mom was trying to hide the cookie tin cleavage from my dad. Hilarious. I’ve come to see my mom as quite a dish too. A shame that she never realized it. Btw, I think you look pretty good in jeans.

Mimi, you are light years ahead of me on the youth-clothing issue. Sometimes, I can’t believe that I’m on my daughter’s case about what she wears. I’ll admit, I’m a protective mom. Sigh. My mother, myself, right?


Cassandra Aoki August 31, 2012 at 3:58 am

I think she probably was trying to spare your father seeing the cleavage, lol. But more than likely, she was expressing herself and she did make it look like it was part of the design. My friend recently died and one of the last things I found in her apartment was an old cookie tin which she used for greeting cards. I liked it so much that I am just keeping it to look at now and then which is what I suspect you are doing the same with your mother’s tin. Actually, if you think about it, she achieved a “stop in time” by doing that in front of you. Whenever you look at that box, you can remember how she looked that day and what you were both doing. The whole scene and feelings stay with you forever especially now that she is gone.


betty ming liu August 31, 2012 at 6:37 am

Erika, yes! And it is a cute jacket, isn’t it? My mom loved dressing up and she had a thing for high-heeled shoes.

Cassandra, now that Viv has introduced my dad into this picture (he was always the off-stage main character hovering over every scene in our household), I think she’s right too. Especially since later on, when I was about 10-12, my mom told us over dinner one night that the love of my dad’s life was was white French girl he met while he was a student in Paris. Yes, it’s nice to have the tin around to keep the memory bank churning. I’m glad you have your own special old cookie tin too. I actually have a few of them from my childhood, all filled with sewing buttons and notions. I hardly sew anymore but, whatever. :)


Hyper Gamma August 31, 2012 at 10:25 am

Interesting story. There seems to be a big generational gap between you and your parents. Or is it just a cultural gap? Your mouther seems more like a grandparent that a mother. Don’t remove the paper! It has been on so long that at this point it will destroy the tin. In reading about peoples stories I got wondering how many generations we have been here. I got looking for my book on Mary Murray Murdock’s decendends. I couldn’t find it but found I can buy a copy on Amazon! ( ) Isn’t that crazy! Mary Murray Murdoch was called Wee Granny because of her small size — 4-feet-7 inches tall and weighing little more than 90 pounds.
I guess the point is that I was fortunate enough to know my great and great-great grand parents. I think this had a positive effect on things. If things were not to my liking at home I can always stay at grand ma’s ! I could even stay at my great grandma’s They were son’s and daughters of pioneers. Then there was my great grand mother Simmons who had 11 children of her own. Durring the Great Depression a couple dropped off a Boy and a Girl to watch “just for the day” and never returned.
Finding peace in our lives, I think, is a great thing. Well worth whatever it costs us!


betty ming liu August 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm

HyperGamma, you nailed on key factor in my upbringing: I had older parents. My dad was 50-ish when I was born and my mom was 38 or 39. Back in the mid-’50s, this made them really old! Not such a big deal today. The immigrant thing is also a factor because parents were the first in their families to come here. I never met my grandparents and for most of my childhood, almost no extended family. So I envy you the comfort of the generations. You were very lucky. :)


Hyper Gamma September 1, 2012 at 2:57 am

As I have come to know you over the past few months, I think I may have discovered an issue you struggle with being Asian-American. Questions of where did I come from and who are “my people” are the most basic things a child can ask. And if not they are things that they should know for those days when they need emotional support.
In my own case I know most of my ancestors came from Scottland and Denmark as pioneers in the 1850’s. The “Wee Granny” I spoke of was in the Martin-Willie handcart company. She died near Chimney Rock, Nebraska after walk accross the country. She was 73. Her last words were ” “Tell John I died with my face toward Zion.” These nine words have inspired generations. On my grandfathers side I am related to Sir Walter Scott. This is perhaps when I have gotten my sense of adventure. “Ivanhoe” as you may know was the first “Adventure Novel” written in the english language.
Have you tried to look into your genealogy? I know you say you know very little but don’t let this discourage you. My grandmother use to come home with stories of “what she learned today” , this was when she was very old and dying of cancer.
It is one of those things where you know just a few facts. But some one may have already done a great deal of research so once you have, often times, a single fact, you gain a wealth of history. Your history. You are a reporter, so you may be better than most. If there are plenty of places you can go for help.
My brother, who works for the LDS family history department told me that they crashed the world wide web TWICE when the upgraded their servers. This was because of all of the traffic. And the servers weren’t even officially online yet!
You can do it all for free @ All that is asked is to share your resources because your family history is also someone elses history too.
It has to be easier to rersearch than Danish!


betty ming liu September 1, 2012 at 6:18 pm

HyperGamma, I’m touched that you took time to think about me and my issues! If it took me a while to respond, though, it’s because I had a very intense reaction to your idea of going on a genealogical dig. As I first read your comment, I had this urge to run screaming from my computer, like my hair was on fire…

But after a few hours, I came back, as you can see. And I even clicked on the link, telling myself that this would be pointless for an Asian immigrant family. Then I was SHOCKED to find that my parents listed by their dates of birth and death. That’s all that’s there, which means future generations can find us, right? You have opened a door for me, thank you!


Hyper Gamma September 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I am so happy! I went to bed fearing that I may have said you the wrong thing. There is a scripture that comes from the bible, old testament so both Christians and Jews accept it which pertains to Genelogical work.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. ”
My brothers job by the way is in family history, he works in some vaults taht are carved into solid granate in a mountain in Utah where all these records are being processed and stored.He is one of two electronic technicians that work there. a few years ago, my brother attended a speach about the work that is being done now in this area. While the speaker was talking there a metronome ticking. A metranome is a device used to keep timing often in piano lessions.
It was kind of annoyung. Finally the speaker got to why he was using the device, explaining it was set at five seconds. Every five seconds a photograph is being taken somewhere in the world of a record pertaining to genelogy. We now know MORE about our ansestors than ANYONE in the history of the earth! This promise of truning the hearts of the children to their fathers and vise versa is being fulfilled IN OUR TIME!
My brother related to me recently that there is an agreement in place where it will soon come to pass where a great wealth of information will be available from CHINESE ANCESTRY!
Where he works is a very strange place I think. It is inside a mountain cut into solid granite. This was done to protect archiverd files in three ways. (See I am using your rule of three!) The temporture can be controled within a few degrees, humidity within a few tenths and finally, it protected by solid granite. Tours are no longer authorised. because they now store National Archive information. One room, I guess you can it a room, if full of natural sprng water that comes from within the mountain. Many of the workers are either genelogists or ferensic photographers. This is the reason for the spring room , to provide water for processing of film. They also have a siver recovery process that recovers sivler from the film. As many documents are sarting to “burn up” Infrared and Ultraviolet photo techniques are often used. For this reason and the great volume of Chinese records it may take some time untill you can find out more.
There is also something you can do TODAY, that is start your own family history. In a few years you will be a grand mother. I think being emotionally and spritually ready for that event will give you great joy.
As you said you knew little family. Are any of them still alive or available? Perhaps you can use the excuse of genelogy to get in touch. Who knows one day you may even have a family reunion. You could also look into your ex’s family history (with some caution, just say you are trying to find out about family history for when your daughter has children) If this is done carefully this could lead to some healing or at least some perspective in life. You can soon by pass living relatives who may not trust your goals.
You may recall the mini-series “roots”. It was the family history library that started that. Why do it? I think it helps us to discover we are not alone life and the the trials and tribulations we go through. Others came before us who lived and loved us. By studying their lives we understand our own. This is something we can pass on to our children and our children’s children.
Let’s face it part of what you have been going through for all your life has been trying to understand and come to terms with your family. It is where they came from and when you knew them in their lives. My parents married their last year in High School so they were very young. I remember playing “Catch” with my dad and wrestling on the carpet. They were also growing and were not “Set in their ways”. When I looked at that photo of you and your dad I saw two things. I saw a man who had joy in his posterity and a daughter who was full of the newness of life. I also say, especially since you pointed it out, the great gap between the two. You spoke of his great love of gardening but the soil shone in the picture is very bare. They say to understand a man you must walk a mile in his shoes. This never happened. I think your dad may have wanted to pass on much to you but could not. It was the fall of his life. Fall is a time of joy but time is running outnone the same. You said you have resentments.
I also thought of the odd story of you mother and tin. The strory is incomplete isn’t it? Why did she act the way she did? Your reaction is understandable. You didn;t really understand why she acted the way she did. You would not have started this thread if you did. Long evening gloves go with an proper evening dress. Everyone knows that! She wasn’t angry at you but at putting such an indecent photo on a tin of cookies.
My grand mother Winn may have handled it diffrently. Play acting removing the gloves then noticing she really isn’t dressed. laughing at the whole culture thing. I remember something she use to do. She use to say the word “ya” over and over and laugh. “Ya” being the word for yes. she just thought that word was so funny!
I hope I haven’t written too much and that you can find some gem hidden in all these words!


Skye September 1, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I liked that Hyper Gamma used your rule of threes:)
Finding out whatever you could about your history would open up a sort of Pandora’s Box, but I am sure it would answer some questions. It would be great to leave for your daughter if she wants children someday, but it would be great to leave behind for humanity just the same, anyone who could be inspired or informed by your family story (like you do with your blog). Your legacy can be left for whomever finds it, strangers or distant family members too.

I know a great deal about my father’s family history, oddly enough, being that he never shared it with me and is deceased. But he has a sister who is the family historian and has collected photos and articles and mentally records so much information. She sent me a package of some of these things from Haiti when I was in high school doing a research project on my ancestors. I learned where the Holly family in Haiti started and that we had a connection to freed Americans, a generation out of slavery before they relocated to the Caribbean, searching for a new place where blacks could develop without the racism experienced in the United States. Haiti was attractive to our ancestor, James Theodore Holly, because it was an island filled with natural resources and was the first free black Republic since 1804. It had political troubles since then, but my ancestor overlooked that. He was a journalist I discovered, as was his brother and was friends with Frederick Douglass when they both lived in Brooklyn. He was also the first black minister to preach at Westminster Abbey in England and was the first black bishop in Haiti ordained by the Anglican church. His father was the mulatto son of a freed slave and a shoemaker that designed the shoes President James Madison wore to his inauguration. A closer ancestor, still living today, is one of James Theodore Holly’s descendants, a very distant cousin, the actress Ellen Holly. I found out that she is 81 years old and was the first black actress to play a recurring character on a soap opera, ”One Life to Live.” She was a very fair skinned woman who played a character trying to pass for white. The storyline was so controversial that the writers had to have her character marry a black man on the show (played by Al Freeman, Jr). She also wrote an autobiography and has worked with and at a time was romantically linked to Harry Belafonte. Some of these details I came to find out on my own, but many were in a biography written about my great-grandfather James T. Holly called ”Defender of the Race.” Many years later, one of my brothers bought a copy of the same biography online and recently trying to find another one, discovered there is only one left in print, on sale for a few hundred bucks.

I’ve been able to find reports online that my great-grandfather wrote that were collected through the Anglican and Episcopalian churches and some abolitionist papers associated with Frederick Douglass. It hit home and almost made me cry to find out that not only did my ancestor have his own newspaper at a time, but that he wrote for community papers like me. I had never met someone in my family before that loved writing that much. I also made the connection that one of my first cousins graduated from the same Ivy League school for law where my father’s father studied medicine. I found it totally ironic to learn that one of my grandfather’s brothers studied at the Pratt Institue in New York, a school I was accepted to and almost attended before I came to The New School. The strongest similarities, though, fall to my 2 younger brothers. One is a sub-teacher and comedian and somew of my grandfather’s brothers were professors in Haiti and one of his nephews was a well-known comedian (but I don’t know his name). This same brother of mine is a huge ice cream fan and we learned that the Holly family owned an ice cream truck business in Haiti at one point. My brother found this out by chance when he happened to be in a class during college with a distant Holly. My youngest brother, coincidentally, is also named James (really a coincidence, my mother had no idea), although there are 2 other Theodores in the family. My brother Jimmy is also a minister and wanted to be one since he was a child.


Hyper Gamma September 2, 2012 at 7:52 am

I had to make a comment about this common thread of black men in particular abandioning their families. I have have heard that it is a result of slavery having been in their family history. I don’t fully understand it but from what I have been toldone has to learn to be faithful from your father. I know in my own life my father taught me a lot about loving a woman by the way he treats my mother. Without a good example it is hard to learn and when trials come up all too often men give up.
I came across a film online (you can watch it all on u-tube) that I remember watching in seminary that is about how to relate to your wife. It is called “Johnny Lingo”. It is a short film, (the original) 25 minutes. The important line I remeber from the movie is “Many things can happen to make a woman beautiful but the thing that matters most is what she thinks of herself” I think that is something all men must learn.


betty ming liu September 2, 2012 at 9:08 am

HyperGamma, it’s pretty hard to offend me! I monitor the comments on this blog very carefully. People can say whatever they want as long as they write from personal experience and don’t rant about “(insert name of ethnic group) people are this and that.”

The story of your brother’s work sounds so amazing as to be surreal. If it’s possible to share, please come back and share the name of the company, organization or a link.

I actually did trace my roots while I was in college. Took a Black History class because I was dating my future husband, who is black, and wanted to understand his culture better. The prof made us all do family interviews and it was great. This assignment made it possible to talk to my relatives and ask questions they normally wouldn’t have answered!

My paper stands as the only documentation I have going back to my grandparents. The course also opened my eyes to the lasting legacy of slavery, which continues to this day.

Skye, thanks for sharing your family history in such heartfelt detail. I’m not sure bad fathers are unique to any particular culture. Crap happens, right? Btw, I hope both you and HyperGamma got something from the experience of posting your stories for the world to see! You both have great stories to tell.

And this is what I wonder….what if you didn’t know all these stuff about your families? How would it impact your sense of confidence and pride in yourselves? Would you live differently? That’s what I wonder about. Not being able to go back for generations sometimes makes me feel like a somewhat blank canvas. And I never gave it much thought until this discussion.


fay October 21, 2012 at 2:37 am

Sooo.. This is a little weird. I just so happened to be looking up J.T. Holly and stumbled across this blog and also on your comments.. I too am a descendant and starting to figure out that we are many..I’d like to thank you for putting up all this information you have on him. Its really helped me a lot.. I was led to believe, by my uncle, that my grandfather, 90, is the oldest living descendant. Both my uncle and my grandfather have attended a family reunion that the holly’s have every year alledgedly. By the way the resemblance between my grandfather and Holly is uncanny!! I have a bachelors degree in journalism. I love to write but poetry is my passion..Just thought I’d share..thanks again..=)


betty ming liu October 21, 2012 at 10:34 am

Oooh, I love it that you both are connecting here. Random moments!


Skye October 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Wow! Thanks so much for writing, Fay. Not so weird at all:)
Interesting, yeah:)

I’ve heard about the Holly reunion, actually. From what I’ve heard, a good number of both American and Haitian Hollys attend. One of my aunts has attended a few times from what I know. She actually shared some info on the Holly history with me before when I had to do a high school report on family history. She gave me the copy of the book on J.T. Holly. How interesting to meet another Holly who loves to write:)


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