Mum was last and seventh child of parents who died young. Her siblings were separated and went to whoever would take them in. Mum was made a servant to her cousins; she received no schooling but learnt how to read over their shoulders, between fetching tea and standing in attendance. They had tutors to the house.
Years later I met one of those cousins; an ‘Aunt’ who told me that they don’t have people who speak so coarsely in their family. She hated hearing my mother swear. Mum on the other hand had no other family so she continued to pay her respects, bringing us to her Uncle’s mansion every Chinese New Year. They showed her small favours and enjoyed her kowtow; ever the poor relation.
As the second daughter of a second wife, I had few expectations in life. I had to be grateful that I was not smothered in ashes of burnt incense or drowned and thrown into the sea. I was on the verge of starvation after my new father became a heroin addict and they had to give me back to my family.
I was not made a maid but being beating or abused by older siblings was what life has allowed. An unwanted child cannot expect welcome. My older sister tried to worm her way into the hearts of the alpha males of the household, my father and his eldest son. She would punch me down if I dare to rise in my proofing. My other half brothers treated me differently to their ‘real’ sisters; I never knew whether they did it out of revenge for their dead mum or simply because they could.
The best thing that happened to me in my life was to be sent away to boarding school in Australia.