I saw my dad onstage at a play.
Not literally, of course. I was at a performance of “Yellow Face”, a play by David Henry Hwang (of “M. Butterfly” fame) with Jensine and David Ho. One of the characters was Henry Y. Hwang, David’s father. The elder Hwang had come to the US speaking virtually no English. He started a laundry business, became a CPA, and went on to open Far East National Bank, which did major business in China.
Henry Y. Hwang loved America, and not just because of economic opportunity. He loved Jimmy Stewart and Frank Sinatra. When faced with adversity, he quoted Sinatra, saying that he would do things “My Way”.
In one scene, Henry Y. Hwang is telling his son David about why he came to the U.S. “David, when I was in China, I knew that this wasn’t my real life. My real life was somewhere else. It was in America. I was just waiting for my real life to begin.”
My dad expressed similar sentiments. When he was living in Seoul, working at a bank right out of college, he was miserable. He longed to move to a new place, to find new opportunity, to really live. He diligently studied English (my father has only a faint trace of an accent) and made his way to this country. He loves the wide open spaces and ample parking and diversity of peoples. He loves Trader Joe’s and the neighborhood Lebanese bakery and Netflix. He loves America.
Watching “Yellow Face” felt like watching part of my dad’s story. In a way, it helped me to imagine life in the U.S. from my dad’s perspective. To imagine the longing for real life to begin.