Shengliver’s Note: This entry features Carter, a Chinese teen, and his family.


Carter is in the last year of high school. Over the three years he has shared so much about his family that now I have got some clue why he behaves his way. Behind a pensive teen lie the stories of an extraordinary family.




Carter’s mother is a primary school teacher. They are not well off but it is more or less a good life. I have not found out what the father does for a living, but one thing about him leaves my mouth agape. It seems that the father at one time got hooked on mah-jong and that the mother later developed the same taste. The couple did not play the Chinese game for fun; they gambled. Carter confided to me in one journal entry that one year the parents had lost so much in gambling that they were up to their ears in debt. Their obsession with the Chinese game cost the household almost everything. Having come to see how foolishly they had been behaving, the parents determined that they would never ever play mah-jong again. According to Carter, they did not even have the dough for necessaries at the time, and the mother had to turn to their kith and kin for a loan.


Fists and Nails


In Carter’s memory, his parents fought a lot in his childhood. Every fight ended up with the mother’s black eye. After one tussle the mother almost became blind. The father, who always insisted that he was right, never yielded to the mother.


When Carter was a primary school pupil, a fierce battle broke out one day. When the parents resorted to nails and fists, Carter was riding his bike in the neighbourhood for fun, unaware what was going on back home. When he came back on his bike, he found mother wearing a pair of sunglasses and lugging all kinds of packages to the roadside from their home. It dawned upon Carter that the parents had come to blows again. When all the mother’s luggage was ready, she hired a rickshaw and asked the driver to carry her and her possessions to her workplace, which was the primary school Carter was attending. Mother was riding in the rickshaw in front, with Carter tagging along on the bike imploring, “Mother, Mother! Wait for me, please.”


In the primary school stood a tower bock for the single staff members. Carter’s mother moved in, and in the following days and weeks Carter lived with her there. The father was left behind home on his own.


Carter thought they would live there forever. After a few days, however, things started to change. At the beginning, the father asked Carter to deliver a message to the other parent. Then the mother reciprocated, asking the son to return a message to the father. Thus Carter became kind of a carrier pigeon for the parents, shuttling between the primary school and their home, where the father was living alone. Although Carter was tired from going to and fro carrying the messages, he was happy that the parents were communicating with each other. Then came a day when the two adults were reconciled and the family of three reunited.


A Tenderer Father


Because Carter will be graduating from high school soon, the father has been accompanying him since the beginning of the last year. They rented a house off campus, where father and son stay the rest of the high school days. The father works like a househusband. He keeps house, does the cooking and washing and chats with Carter after he is back from school. Carter has found that his father has transformed himself from a harsh stubborn male into a tender accommodating parent. There arises many an occasion when Carter argues or quarrels with the father. Instead of losing his temper and lecturing Carter, the father now listens to the teen with a sympathetic ear and puts himself in the son’s shoes.


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