Ce­les­tine

Room Magazine - - CONTENTS - CARRIANNE LEUNG

My mom is an artist. Ever since I was a child, I re­mem­ber her pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with beauty. She bought oil paints, wa­ter­colours, can­vas and paper, and I re­mem­ber these pri­vate mo­ments when she could not be dis­turbed. I watched her with­out her know­ing and was taken by the ex­pres­sion on my mother’s face that I never saw out­side of these mo­ments when she painted. There was a seren­ity in her ex­pres­sion, a con­cen­trated en­gage­ment in her eyes. In her nine-to-five life, she was first a key­punch op­er­a­tor. And then she be­came a com­puter pro­gram­mer. This was the late sev­en­ties through to the early nineties, and I re­mem­ber how she would lead me on a tour of the main­frames that filled en­tire huge rooms at her of­fice. My mom was proud of her achieve­ments in her pro­fes­sional life. She was a first-gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grant from Hong Kong, a teacher whose ac­cred­i­ta­tions be­came null and void upon ar­rival to Canada. It wasn’t that she was overly pas­sion­ate about teach­ing; I think it was a pro­fes­sion she chose quickly in or­der to start mak­ing money when her fa­ther fell ill and was forced to re­tire. In Canada, af­ter be­ing deskilled upon ar­rival, she worked her way up to a management po­si­tion in a soft­ware com­pany when com­put­ers were still the stuff of the fu­ture. Dur­ing most of my child­hood, she was the main bread­win­ner in the fam­ily. For my mom, duty al­ways came first be­fore in­dulging one’s own deeply held de­sires. But she was also adamant about her pur­suit of beauty. She was a maker: sewing match­ing out­fits for my brother and me, lov­ingly craft­ing flo­ral ar­range­ments, and, of course, there were her paint­ings and draw­ings. She claimed that I didn’t have an ounce of her vis­ual artistry, and maybe that’s true. I un­der­stood my mother was spe­cial. She was touched by a magic that I was not part of. I wrote. I wrote pri­vately the way she painted pri­vately. I was an in­se­cure, lonely child who was en­chanted with books and words. I started my first novel when I was in grade three with­out telling any­body. I don’t believe I finished it, but I still re­mem­ber the story. It was about a baby chick lost on a farm and find­ing fam­ily in a mot­ley crew of horses, goats, and pigs. Look­ing back, I now un­der­stand that writ­ing sus­tained me as art sus­tained my mother. It was more than plea­sure; the im­pe­tus to cre­ate was a ne­ces­sity. Even though my mother be­lieved that I was not

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