The Life of Lucille G. Wong
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Early Memories of Mom
Thank you for coming today to honor our Mom, Lucille Juanita Gong Wong.
My earliest memory of Mom was when we lived for a short time in a small cottage that my parents rented in Santa Cruz. Dad took a job at an Italian Seafood Restaurant and they rented a small cottage with what was to me at the time a large garden with lots of fruit trees. The garden had tall corn stalks that I played hide/seek in and vegetables like carrots, potatoes and squash that Mom and I went out to pick. I remember Mom teaching me how to safely find fresh apricots, plums, apples and nectarines. I remember especially the green red nectarines which were the natural fruit and not hybrids.
Significant times were when I had to have my tonsils removed and when my brother, Brace, was born. Leary may have had his tonsils out as well. Two for one? The significance was that we got vanilla ice cream treats at each! I think the ice cream was to help the the tonsils heal and as a hospital treat. Anyway, thanks Brace!
We moved to San Francisco and our Silver Avenue home in time for me to start kindergarten. This was in the Excelsior District, a predominately Irish Italian neighborhood, where we were the only Asian family in the general area. I have memories of Mom taking me to sign up for Kindergarten at Hillcrest Elementary School, and teaching me how to walk to and return home on my own. “You are a big boy!”, she told me, but really she had Leary and baby Brace at home.
I had a great time at Hillcrest, making and playing with friends, even though there were no other Asian students there until Leary came. Mom always had a welcoming “open” house and encouraged us to invite friends over to play. She would have treats for them and sometimes had them stay for lunch or dinner. She and Dad tolerated my buddies and I building a “space ship” under the stairs to the garage out of jar lids, knobs and other things we found. Leary was part of this, too. If some of you can remember, this was in the days of black & white TV with Space Cadets and Space Patrol on.
Mom continued welcoming friends when we moved to 24th Street. I was in high school with afternoon jobs, but would come home to hear that Cheryl had friends over, or that she was over their homes. She is still very close to these friends today. Mom did this for all of us.
Mom helped us explore our community. I would also walk with Mom down to Mission Street, the main business area of the Excelsior District with grocery stores, pharmacies a movie theater and where she signed me up at the local library and taught me how to find and checkout books. Reaching out further, Mom took us on the bus to the inner Mission District to Community Music School, where she signed me up for piano lessons. She would have me also go on my own by telling the bus driver to tell me to get off at 21st Street. These experiences gave me the confidence to go with my buddies, though still in elementary school, down to movies and sports games on our own with our free Safety Patrol tickets..
Mom also helped us be part of the community by going to meetings and being part of the community, including PTA, Cub Scouts and other activities. Through her, opportunities opened up to all of us.
I grew up with a circle of friends from Kindergarten through high school. In Junior High, one of my friend’s mother, a school teacher, approach two mothers, Mom being one of them, about applying to a private boys prep school. This mother didn’t want her son to go to the district high school which had problems at that time and she knew her son wouldn’t go on his own. Now, thinking back through in today’s world, I am amazed and appreciate how we were part of the neighborhood and part of this selection, and thanks to Mom, who stepped me through the application and testing process and this being before all of the private tutoring companies we now have. Quick note: all 3 of us got in, thanks to the Mom brigade!
In many ways Mom was a Tiger Mom! Not one in the abusive, authoritative and demanding way, but in a gentile guiding way. Dad showed us how to find, develop and use our skills and abilities. Mom showed us how to be and feel part of the neighborhood, the community and the world and to find how best to live in it.
I hope all of you, when thinking about your mothers, find that they too were in some ways Tiger Moms for you.
Mom, I miss you and your love very much.