FAMILY HISTORY: Aunt Lillian Ho 03
Aunt Lillian belongs to mother's side of the family because Lillian was the common-law wife of my mom's brother WONG Kong Hee. He had come to America in 1913 at age 18. He spent time in Fargo, North Dakota, and then worked at a sawmill in Vancouver, pulling planks off a chain. He married in China and had two sons there. According to Aunt Lillian, Uncle taught her to read Chinese, from the local newspapers!
Being from Taishan, Uncle spoke that dialect. Aunt Lillian spoken Cantonese, as her mother was from Guangzhou. Since she was our main care-giver, my brother and I learned Cantonese.
Though Aunt Lillian was Canadian-born, she was determined that my brother and I learn Chinese. Her rule at home was this: No English to be spoken. My brother and I attended Chinese language school and watched countless black-and-white opera movies from Hong Kong of the 1960s. Little did we suspect this would all contribute greatly to my first play, "Jade in the Coal," which is about a Cantonese opera troupe touring through Cumberland, the coal mining town on Vancouver Island, in the 1900s.
Today, my spoken Cantonese sounds okay, but suffers from a serious vocabulary deficit!
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