Shared Stories: A Long Engagement

Candy Wong is committed to observing family traditions, and when her parents didn’t approve of her young boyfriend, she worked for years to find a way to achieve two goals: please her parents, and still marry the man she fell in love with. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Candy Wong

I was born in Hong Kong, the eldest of eight children. My parents met on Po Tai Island, which is part of Hong Kong. My father only went to school for six years, and he became a farmer and a fisherman on Po Tai Island. There he met and married my mother.

Many years later, my family moved to an urban area in Hong Kong, and my father started to work as an owner of a family knitting factory. My parents put their energy into the knitting factory, and my grandparents took care of the family. There were twelve family members altogether.  

When I was a senior in my high school, I met Ringo, my future husband, during my summer job. I worked at my father’s knitting factory, and it was the first job in my life. I went with two other friends to work in the quality control department. 

On the first working day, three of us were waiting in front of the factory’s front desk to fill out employment forms.  Ringo worked there as an office assistant. Ringo greeted us and handed us our time cards to clock in. Therefore, he knew our names.

Working in a knitting factory was very boring, even though I had friends who worked and talked with me.  Most of our co-workers were older women.  I noticed Ringo always walked around us; he sang songs when he approached me. When I went to lunch with my friends, I saw him wearing sunglasses and singing with a low voice at the factory’s entrance.

One day, both of my friends didn’t go to work. Ringo asked me to go to lunch with him. We just ate at a nearby restaurant. He told me that he was a returning summer job worker and he was a senior high school student too. 

After the first lunch, Ringo always appeared in front of me with a smile on his face. I was happy to see him rather than checking numerous knitting items for flaws. 

Two months after my summer job was over, Ringo waited for me at the bus stop. He told me that he wanted to visit his aunt. She was living in my neighborhood. We had a great conversation on the way home. 

When I got off the bus, we walked for a short distance and he bought two red bean popsicles at a roadside snack bar for us to eat. Then he asked me for my phone number.  After that, he always called me to go study at nearby libraries.  

My parents and my grandparents knew that someone was attracted to me. They put pressure on me because they didn’t want me to have a boyfriend when I was a student. I didn’t know how to resolve this conflict with my family. 

Eventually, they stopped giving me money for my studies. I needed to pay all of my tuition and daily expenditures when I was in college. My college life was difficult. I became a tutor after school, and Ringo and I worked on weekends. Ringo studied electronic engineering.   

My college school time, part time jobs, and dating occupied all my time. As the oldest girl, I was expected to bear most of the responsibility of caring for my seven younger siblings while my parents worked. Many years after I knew Ringo, my family still opposed Ringo.

After I finished college, my first job was being a scriptwriter for a television broadcasting company. Ringo worked at Jockey Club as a technician. Even though Ringo tried to have a good relationship with my family, my family still didn’t like him.

Ringo saved his salary to buy an apartment that was being built. When the apartment was completed, we got married in 1984.  It was nine years after Ringo and I first met.

I was committed to marrying Ringo, but I also wanted to please my both of our parents. We followed their instructions to have our wedding party at their favorite expensive restaurant. We invited all of their friends and relatives to come. We had almost three hundred guests attending our wedding. Eighty percent were my family’s guests. After the wedding, for a long period of time we had to balance our budgets and pay off our debts.

My grandparents eventually accepted my husband, and many years later, my parents did as well.  My parents lived with us for about ten years, and Ringo helped to take good care of them.  Ringo and I moved to the United States in 2000 and we now have 2 children.  

I have known Ringo for over forty years. I consider him as an intimate friend rather than a husband. He totally understands me; sometime he can read my mind. I am very grateful to Ringo for his kindness to each member of my family.  I think no one can replace him.