We are currently in the midst of the Lunar New Year celebration; it is the Year of the Fire Rooster. The start was January 28; I was on a business trip and did not have all of my materials available to me. Otherwise, I would have shared this at the time. Enjoy this brief excerpt from my award-winning novel.
Lee Ming invited me to celebrate the lunar new year with her family. She had told me all about the parade and celebrations that happened in Chinatown and wanted to show me. She also told her family that our family had given her such luck and prosperity, despite her peasant feet, she wanted them to be able to thank me. Permission was given, and Lee Ming took me on the street car to her home.
I met her mother first. Madame Lee’s feet were smaller than a child’s and she had difficulty walking. Lee Ming explained that all proper women’s feet were bound starting from a young age; I am ashamed to admit that I asked her. I had never seen or heard of such a thing, but managed to keep my shock to myself. The majority of the woman’s weight went on her great toe, as the others were twisted over into the arch of the foot. Apparently, Chinese gentlemen found the swaying walk that resulted from the binding most alluring.
Lee Ming insisted on helping me into her finest clothes before dinner; a red brocade robe with golden embroidery and wide sash across my bosom. She dressed my hair, putting it up in an elaborate, pomaded sculpture, and stuck a high comb with golden dangling beads in it. She powdered my face and rouged my lips; I did not recognize myself.
“You are my honored guest; it is lucky for you to join us.”
When we came to supper, everyone was dressed in the same traditional fashion — except for Lee Ming’s brother, who wore a modern suit. Unlike uncles and cousins to whom I was introduced, he also had a modern haircut; the others still wore queues and skullcaps. Ming told me later that Madame Lee had slapped Song the day that he came home wearing his Sears, Roebuck suit and with his Western haircut. Madame Lee said that he shamed his ancestors. Song, though, wanted to be a modern man.
“My brother, Lee Song. This is Miss Veronique LeMaître.”
”Samuel,” he said, bowing over my hand. “I am honored to meet you, Miss LeMaître.” His English was excellent and without accent; he had been born in California.
He was also quite handsome, with his smooth, golden skin and dark eyes. He was taller than the other men; I would later learn that Samuel and Ming were fathered by a white man who had passed away but left his claim income to Madame Lee. Law forbade them to marry, but could not prevent their love.
Samuel and I kept darting glances at each other over the supper table. He talked of his ambition to attend university and become a teacher. I could see him standing in front of a classroom and delivering instructions. His tone was polite and scholarly at all times.
Samuel asked for permission to call on me, which was a surprise. No one had ever done so before. I agreed. He suggested a date and place, and I promised to be there.