Assorted Trinkets

In Fun

Every time my grandparents come home from a visit to China, they bring back a bag full of useless stuff: keychains, animal figurines, unwearable jewelry. They've always felt a strong attachment to trinkets—maybe not the objects themselves, but, at the very least, the act of buying them. My mom has told me stories of my grandpa asking his friends for money just so he could buy souvenirs during annual trips to the zoo. My grandparents came from the old Chinese landowning elite. When they were young, buying things was easy. Materialism was also an important part of displaying their status and wealth. However, once Chairman Mao came into power, they lost everything. My grandma started working long hours in an ice cream factory and my grandpa became a physical education teacher (and, in Maoist China, that meant being ridiculed and harassed by his students). Because they had so little—they rarely had enough to eat—on special occasions, my grandparents felt obligated to buy my mom and her sisters everything they could ask for. My mom immigrated to the US in the 90s, where she met my dad, and then had me. In Chinese culture, it's customary for the grandparents to take care of their grandchildren, so my grandma moved here the year I was born, and my grandpa came three years later, when my brother was born. My grandparents always made sure to literally shower my brother and me with trinkets, mostly because they could never do that for their own children.

Year: 1990

Relationship:  unknown unknown