I just received an email from my mom asking me to go home tomorrow so that my parents could give me my Christmas present before they left for the weekend for an out-of-state trip with their friends. My dad had emailed me some time ago asking what I want for Christmas, but I didn’t give him any gift suggestions, only saying that I’m not in need of anything. I’m actually really curious what they got me, not only because they manage to surprise me annually by how great their presents are (last year they got me my digital camera, which I had really, really wanted but didn’t have time to research, even tho I’d never expressed this desire to them), but because more and more lately, I am disappointed by how little they — well, my mom especially — know me.

When my parents returned from their touristy visit to China, my mom’s souvenir to me was 2 bracelets. Cute little casual things, pretty girly, nothing I’d wear. They’re still in their box. I guess she hasn’t realized that the only jewelry I wear on a regular basis is my wristwatch. I don’t think to put on a lot of glitz. For one, I think it looks pretentious. Two, it gets in the way of my work, typing and whatnot. I have to remove it before I work out and hope I don’t leave it in the gym locker. Three, it reveals too much about me. I prefer to control people’s impressions of me, and jewelry says a lot about a person. Take a ring, for example. Which finger a ring is worn on, what kind of ring, how gawdy it is, how many rings, how real/fake it appears, how in keeping it is with current trends. People infer information like status, priorities, level of gold-digger-ness, marital status, taste, lifestyle. Yes, lifestyle. You can generally tell whether someone’s alternative, straight, gay, prude, artsy, conservative, etc. by their jewelry.

Anyway, after my mom had handed over the bracelets, she unpacked the rest of her loot. She whipped out a great cloth fan. Open, the diameter of the semi-circle was probably a good 2 feet. White fabric stretched over mahogany-colored wood boning. On the right half of the fan was a hand-written Chinese poem in black ink, in old-fashioned brush strokes, or “mao bi“. On the left half of the fan was another poem in a different handwriting, also written with mao bi. My mother explained about the legend of a nobility class young woman in love with a lowly poet in ancient China. The woman was later arranged by her family to be married to someone in the same high class level, and she met up one last time with this poet in their secret mountain pagoda. One poem was one that she had written him, and the other poem was his response to her poem. Oh! *heart breaking* “But you wouldn’t like this stuff, so I’m giving it to my friend,” my mom said, folding up the fan.