“My parents miss us,” said John, who beamed like a Mid-Autumn moon. “They want us to be back at home. They like it better when it’s renao,” or lively.
While working on to-dos for our trip back to China, my thoughts turned to living in the family home once again. And just like that, John reminded me of the warm welcome we’ll enjoy when we move back into the same two-story building his parents call home.
I felt that same welcome from John’s parents during the summer of 2009. On the phone, my father-in-law spoke of home renovations they planned to complete before our arrival. “Why are they wasting their money on that?” I once asked John. Turns out, the renovations were a whole new addition to the family home — including a two-bedroom and bathroom suite that my father-in-law would later dub our xinfang, that new home every newly married couple should have. “This is your home,” my father-in-law said to me once, after I claimed John and I didn’t have a home of our own.
In the US, this reads more like a fairytale — or even a myth. While your parents might kick in some cash for your wedding, they’re sure not likely to leave a “vacancy” sign on for you and your spouse to move in and call it home. And as for the married child, well, moving back home with your spouse is an utter embarrassment — or even life failure.
But John’s parents wanted us living with them so much they made room for us — literally.
And, strange as it may seem, I want nothing more than to live with them too. I love the way his father gets excited about the flowers in the garden and Chinese poetry and writing about the history of his ancient village. I love how his mother keeps me stuffed with the most sumptuous home-cooked vegetarian dishes, and won’t let me do my laundry, and teaches me how to cook with her fire-powered wok.
Maybe most Americans can’t understand why I’m excited about moving in with my in-laws. And that’s okay. The more time I’ve spent with John, the more I’ve realized that not everything about the white US culture I grew up in makes sense either. Sometimes, it’s not about what makes sense to the world or to others, but what makes sense to you.
All I can say is, I’m already missing my mother-in-law and father-in-law and can’t wait to be home with them.