"Do you have brothers or sisters?" People like to ask this when they try to get to know each other.
"No, I'm Chinese." I always answered like this, following with a laugh.
But I never thought about this before I moved aboard.
“Is it awkward to be an only child?" Many of my international friends would continue to ask.
"No, not at all! All the kids I grew up with are the only child in the family. It would have been awkward if you actually had a sibling. When my same age cousin came to live with us when we were 12, going to school with me everyday, my classmates made a lot of fun of us!"
I know all that reasoning. China was very poor and overloaded by its population back then. If it weren't the only child policy, my parents won't be able to afford my education- not to mention taking me to the amusement park. Although, now that I'm living abroad, surrounded by people who all have siblings, I couldn't stop wondering what it'd feel like to have a sister or brother to grow up with.
My dad looked very serious in most of his photos. He has that nerdy engineer's look all the time. My mom, on the other hand, was always bright, delightful, as if she could start singing in the next moment. This contradiction left their child confused about what face to put on in front of the camera. Throughout my childhood camera moments in which both my parents presented, I had that "seriously sort of smile" look.
Not long after this photo was taken, my dad went to Soviet Union for his advanced study in automobile engineering. He stayed there during 1989-1991, just in time to witness the breakdown of the communist alliance. At that time I graduated from kindergarden and went to the primary school. That was the only time my mom cared about the international news everyday. At some point my mom suggested that we could immigrate to East Germany through the Soviet Union connection, and then eventually we could move to the West.
Immigration was a wild thing to do at that time. All the scholars were funded by the national grants to study aboard. It was expected that you return to your home country after your study, and use what you learnt abroad to help your motherland. However, considering the political and economical situation in China in early 90s, many people took the chance to migrate anyway. My dad wasn't one of them. He was very stubborn and determinate at that time that he was gonna come back and make contributions to his country his people.
So I spent my happy childhood in China, running and screaming under the sun, and accumulated many precious memories under the wings of my mom and dad. Many years later I finally moved to the West - No influence from my parents at all, I made my own choice. They must have missed me. And I miss them too.
The story could have gone into many directions. What if I had brothers or sisters. What if my family did move to Germany. What if my dad laughed more in his photo. What if I didn't leave my hometown?
After all, C'est la vie.