Angie Cheng in conversation with Mina Wong
Angie Cheng is a parent, worker, and university student. Earlier this year, she told Learning Curves (Spring Issue 2021) how her family of five had lived through a year of COVID. Last week, I asked her to tell me more about her life since coming to Canada twenty years ago.
Angie, you gave Learning Curves an awesome story about your family during COVID. How is everyone doing five months later?
I think all of us have learned a lot about getting along in a health crisis. I also think we are stronger individuals from solving problems together every day.
My husband, Steve started going to his office again in June. With him not working in the living room, our apartment suddenly seems larger. The kids are again their normal, noisy selves.
Getting fully vaccinated has been a priority for Steve, Sammy, and me. With Lilli and Billy too young to get the vaccine, we just need to watch them carefully in September. But Sammy and Lilli are excited to start Grade 8 and Grade 5. Kindergarten was a bit choppy for Billy, but he will be in Grade 1 next month.
I am starting a gerontology degree this fall. With luck, my classes will be in real classrooms on campus.
You have dealt with everything so calmly. But I understand moving to Canada was your parents’ agenda. How was it for you, a teenager suddenly brought to a new country?
My family and I came from Chongqing, Toronto’s sister city in China. We already knew a lot about Toronto because my dad’s brother, Jinping had moved here in 1985.
Both my parents were teachers, encouraged by Jinping to join his import business in Toronto. I had just finished high school and turned seventeen that summer.
My parents still expected me to always do as I was told. I didn’t always think they were wrong, but in Canada, I wanted to make my own decisions. It took them many, many years to understand that I needed my own identity.
What were some major conflicts between you and your family?
My parents had a huge problem when I was eighteen. I wasn’t ready for university or pre-med as my dad wanted. Instead, I took a personal support worker certificate and volunteered at the CNIB, so that I could help people with low vision and vision loss.
I liked working for the Ministry of Health, but my parents pulled such long faces because my achievements fell below their expectations.
Then, my parents raged at me when I introduced Steve to them.
We had met in college and wanted to marry sometime. But Steve’s Indonesian when my parents wanted a Chinese son-in-law. They told me I wasn’t a dutiful daughter because I only cared about myself.
When you and Steve married, you were both just nineteen. What important beliefs have sustained marriage and family for you?
When my parents rejected Steve, I was heartbroken. But Steve said, “Let’s marry now. We can live with my parents for a while. They’ll love you like they love me.”
Steve and I knew all families had challenges. We also knew marriage was about everyday give-and-take to respect, accept, and support each other.
We held a simple wedding at City Hall where Steve’s parents spoke to mine through an interpreter: “You have done a wonderful job raising Angie who is the sweetest angel. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We will honor you for as long as we live.”
Steve and I are also proud of our cultures, so that we can give our kids a sense of pride as Canadians with Chinese and Indonesian heritage.
That is such an interesting story. What cultural values do you and Steve give Sammy, Lilli, and Billy?
Steve comes from a long line of fishermen near Bali. Their endurance and generosity are gifts of courage and faith from the oceans. Steve’s surname, Kadir means “bright light”. He tells our kids so much about marine worlds and mythology from diverse Indonesian cultures.
My surname, Cheng means “completion” in Mandarin, and I come from generations of teachers and healers dating back to the 1800s.
Steve and I teach our kids to celebrate success and learn from mistakes. We also accept other people who are different, and discover new things about cultures around us.
We are very blessed with three kids who are curious, adaptable, and caring. In turn, we will do our best to build future generations of resilient Canadians.
Thank you for sharing amazing memories from your life. I wish you tremendous success in everything you do.
It’s been a privilege to share my simple story with you. Thank you for giving it to Learning Curves.