The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.
"This bird," boasted the market vendor, "was once a duck
"that stretched its neck in hopes of becoming a goose.
"And now look! lt is too beautiful to eat."
Then the woman and the swan sailed across an ocean many thousands of li wide, stretching their necks toward America.
On herjourney, she cooed to the swan, "In America, I wiII have a daughterjust like me.
"But over there, nobody will say her worth is measured
"by the loudness of her husband's belch.
"Over there, nobody will look down on her
"because l will make her speak only perfect American English.
"And over there, she will always be too full to swallow any sorrow.
"She will know my meaning because l will give her this swan, "a creature that became more than what was hoped for."
But when she arrived in the new country, the immigration officials pulled the swan away from her, leaving the woman fluttering her arms and with only one swan feather for a memory.
For a long time now, the woman had wanted to give her daughter the single swan feather and tell her, "This feather may look worthless, "'but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions."
-Hi! -Oh, Jennifer! Oh!
Yeah. That's it. -How are you, June?
Come on! Do or die! Come on! Do or die.
All right, all right! They're lining up for a pass!
Here we go, baby. Here we go. Oakland.
All right! Go! -Go!
I told you! Yeah! You owe me five bucks!
Everybody! Wave, wave, Waverly-a!
I do not sound like...
Did you say I sound like my... I do not...
How could I be like my mother?
She is right, you know.
Don't put Chinese cabbage in the salad.
-I boil the Chinese cabbage... -It's bitter.
-Mmm, Dad, that smells good. -Thanks.
Can you believe they're still arguing?
-Picture time! Picture time! -Waverly loves it! Everybody loves it!
-Where's Rose? Rose! Rose!
-Come on! -Picture! Picture!
-You're never ready. Come on. -Oh, June.
-June, come here! -Come on, June!
-Get over here! -Come on!
-No, that's all right, Lena.
-It's all right. You go ahead. -No, really.
Go ahead. Go ahead.
June, come closer, darling. Come closer.
Enough. Time to take the picture now.
-Get close to me some more. -All right, let me check your hair.
Okay, it looks nice. Now smile naturally, Ma.
-I always do, Waverly. -No, you don't. Do a nice, friendly one.
-You look younger all the time. -I gave you my good skin.
You will look like me when you get older.
-I'm close, Mom! I won't. -But don't crush my hair.
Ying Ying, take this.
My mother died four months ago. l realized for the first time they wanted me to take my mother's place.
So I sat down on the East where things begin, with my mother's best friends.
My mother started the Joy Luck Club, having met all these women in church, Auntie An Mei, Auntie Lindo, Auntie Ying Ying.
For 30 years, these women feasted, forgot past wrongs, laughed and played, lost and won and told the best stories.
Each week, they hoped to be lucky, and that hope was their onlyjoy.
Their connection with each other had more to do with hope than joy or luck.
You win like your mother?
Uh, I only played once with some Jewish friends in college.
Hmmph! Jewish mah jong, not the same thing.
Entirely different. Now, Chinese mah jong very tricky.
You have to watch what everybody throw out and you keep all this in your head.
And if nobody play well, then the game is just like Jewish mah jong, no strategy.
You American girls play Chinese, Jewish. What's the difference?
They were worried. ln me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant of all the hopes and dreams our mothers brought to this country.
-Ai-ya! Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!
-No talking in Chinese. -Huh?
-How do I know you're not cheating? -We would not cheat.
You don't know, but we are your auntie and we are very honest people.
We would not cheat you.
Hey, June, why you not take the piano home?
You only one who play.
When l was nine years old, my mother's version of believing in me was believing that l could be anything, anything she wanted, the best piano prodigy this side of China.
-l never practiced.
Lucky for me, old Mr. Chong couldn't tell the difference.
He'd gone stone-deaf over the years.
Me and Beethoven, we both hear it in our head!
Okey dokey. Now...
Now how many sharps, how many flats?
-What key are we in? -Z major.
-What? -Z major!
-Now, for the recital, more feeling!
l'm a girl, and by me that's only great l am proud that my silhouette is curvy When l was young, Auntie Lindo was my mother's best friend and arch enemy.
Their weapons of choice were comparing their children.
Mom was sick of hearing Auntie Lindo brag about her daughter Waverly, who was Chinatown's chess champion.
That night, Mom figured l'd redeem her with my international piano debut.
I ask my daughter, "Help me carry grocery."
She think this too much ask.
All day long she play chess.
I dust off all her trophy. Appreciate me? No.
You lucky you don't have the same problem.
My problem worser than yours.
If I tell June time to wash dish, she hear nothing but music.
It's like you can't stop this natural talent.
Being a girl
Until that night, l didn't believe l was a prodigy.
ln fact, l used to go out of my way to prove my mother wrong, that I wasn't cut out to be the best anything, l could only be me.
It was incredible. It was like my hands were possessed by Mozart.
And everybody could see this, could hear this. l was a genius. l had been discovered.
And then I heard it.
Maybe they didn't notice.
Bravo! Bravo! Encore! Well done!
Here we come Walking down the street After the taIent show fiasco, l figured l never had to play the piano again.
From everyone we meet
-Hey, hey, we're the Monkees -4:00. Turn off TV.
-Some people say we monkey around -Practice piano time. l couldn't believe what she was saying.
Like l was supposed to go through the same torture again.
-Forget it. -What I say?
-To be friendly -4:00.
-Come and watch us sing and play -I'm not going to play anymore.
-Why should I? -We're the young generation
-What did you say? -And we've got something to say I'm not your slave. This isn't China.
You can't make me!
-Get up! -No! No, I won't.
No! No, I won't.
You want me to be someone I'm not!
I'll never be the kind of daughter that you want me to be.
There two kinds of daughter: obedient or follow own mind.
Only one kind of daughter could live in this house, obedient kind.
Then I wish I wasn't your daughter! I wish you weren't my mom!
Too late to change this.
That's when I remembered what we could never talk about.
Then I wish I were dead, like them, the babies that you killed in China!
My mother had once told me this strange story, what happened to her in China.
She said she was going to Chungking to meet the man who was her husband.
That was the first time I ever heard she was married before my father.
She barely had time to grab her babies, twin girls.
That was the first time I heard she had other babies.
l always try to picture in my mind what really happened, but she would never explain.
She would only say by the time she reached Chungking she had lost everything.
And I said, "Wait, what do you mean 'everything'?
"What happened to those babies?"
There were so many things about my mother l never understood.
-This is the only one l never forgave.
You know? Two babies?
The babies? We all thought that the babies had died.
-But last month at a church picnic... -You know, two babies your mother leave on the roadside, in war time?
It's miracle, but we find them.
Yes! Can you imagine? They're still alive!
What are you saying? They're alive?
I think your mother always want to find them, her long-cherished wish.
So after she died, we tried for her, writing, writing, writing.
This is from them, those babies?
No baby anymore!
What does it say? What does it mean?
It say... See here?
They are very glad... No, no, no, no, no.
Overjoyed beyond belief at last find you, their little sister.
And they say... See here?
How sad, how very sad too late to meet their mother now she no longer in this world.
It says... See here?
You must come to China and meet them and tell them all about their mother.
What could I tell them?
I didn't know anything about her. She was...
-She was my mother. What do you mean?
Tell them how smart she was, how kind she was.
Everyone loves her.
How sincere, how hard-working she was.
-And the excellent dishes she cooked. -Even better than mine.
And how beautiful she sang. Don't you remember?
How can a daughter not know her own mother?
You're right. I will tell them.
I... I should. I want to.
What're you thinking?
Those babies, of course. The twins.
I can't believe I'm actually going to meet them.
How sad they must've been when you told them Mom died.
That must've been the hardest letter for you to write.
Oh, peanut bowl empty.
Oh! Oh, I'll get us some.
All this time never telling her the truth. Must tell her today.
How can you not tell her?
How can I tell her what the letter really say?
Then she never go to China, never go to see her sister.
Am I right? Yes, of course.
Lindo, I still think it's wrong.
It's so sad for those babies.
How could Suyuan give them up?
To lose a mother so young.
To wonder why.
Even to this day l wonder how my own mother could give me up.
That day, when l was only four years old,
l came upon a meeting that would change my life forever.
Come here quick.
Huang Tai Tai, this is my daughter.
Come here, Lindo.
Come over here.
Come to Mama.
Don't keep Huang Tai Tai waiting.
She looks like a brat.
She's usually very obedient.
She's just shy today. l didn't know it, but that day my mother made a promise, that when I became 1 5, l would go live in this woman's house...
She looks so skinny.
Don't go by her looks.
Look at that lucky face.
She'll give you many grandsons.
...and fulfill the old matchmaker's guarantee to have many sons with a husband I had never met before.
Come here! Come here!
Have Huang Tai Tai take a closer look at you.
Stop stuffing yourself!
No girl should eat so fast.
For the next 10 years, my mother treated me as if l already belonged to Huang Tai Tai.
Look at those dirty spots!
Who would want such a dirty daughter-in-law?
Always be careful.
Otherwise when you go to Huang Tai Tai's, she will disapprove of you.
My mother did not say these things because she didn't love me.
She said these things so she would not wish for something that was no longer hers.
And then one day, my mother said our whole family was moving to the south.
Everyone except me.
Remember... when you see Huang Tai Tai, act happy.
Really, you are very lucky.
The marriage ceremony has begun.
Bride and groom, pay respect to each other.
Pay respect to the ancestors.
Be blessed with prosperity!
Be blessed with many sons!
That night l would meet my husband for the first time, the one who would control my destiny, decide whether l was happy or not.
This one moment would decide for my whole life whether fear would rule or I would.
I decided underneath I knew who I was. l promised myself never to forget.
I have prayed to the gods many days for you, so that you were not too ugly, or too old.
I must have prayed too hard.
Ha! Scared you to death!
I am the husband.
I make all the decisions.
You sleep on the floor.
Do it! Do it now!
The next few years l tried to accept my life, to act like an obedient wife.
Every night, l made Huang Tai Tai's special soup, good for mother-in-laws.
Still, she was not pleased.
Where are my grandsons?
My son says... you often refuse... to sleep with him.
What kind of a wife are you?
You sleep on your side.
After that, l slept with my husband.
-Every night l slept with him, just like brother and sister.
Where are my grandsons?
My son says he's planted enough seeds in you to fill a basket.
Plenty for ten thousand grandsons!
It's all your fault!
Always running around, letting my son's seeds spill out.
From now on, you lie in bed all day.
Until my grandson comes!
Do you hear me?
Disgusting little thing!
Close all the windows!
Feel this. I'm pregnant.
What'd I tell you?
She's like this all the time.
What the hell's happening?
Tell me quick!
It's so scary.
It's too terrible to say.
I had a bad dream.
Our ancestors came to me!
They told me if Tyan-Yu stays... in this marriage, he will die.
What's this bullshit?
What a stupid girl to have bad dreams!
The ancestors said... if the matter is not settled immediately, they will begin... the cycle of destruction!
There are three signs, he said.
First, he has drawn a spot on Tyan-Yu's back.
And this spot will eat away Tyan-Yu's flesh, just as it ate away our ancestor's face.
The same mole l had seen during all those nights of sleeping just like brother and sister.
Next, our ancestor touched my mouth.
Our ancestor said... if I don't leave this marriage, all my teeth will fall out.
But how could I leave this family I love so much?
I live and die for this family.
The open spot in my mouth where a rotted tooth fell out four years ago.
Our ancestor also said this girl here... is Tyan-Yu's true spiritual wife... already growing his son!
To prove it, our ancestor planted the seed in her womb.
Already ripe in one day.
Ah Ping! Come over here!
Come over here!
If you don't believe me, ask the matchmaker.
I told them the matchmaker had made the wrong match on purpose just for money.
Matchmaker, how could you?
How could you?
Well... mistakes happen in Heaven.
The hell with this!
All of you!
Huang Tai Tai got her grandson.
The servant girl got her marriage.
I got a rail ticket to Shanghai.
So, you see, I still kept my promise to my mother.
But years later, things were somewhat different
-with my daughter Waverly's wedding. -Way?
Ma, it's me. -Waverly-a.
-You already at the beauty parlor? No? -No. No. l'm... l have a headache. -Headache?
You have a headache? So you cannot keep your promise to your mother?
-Ma! -No, don't come.
Why should l want you to come when all you're telling me you don't want to come?
Ma, that's not what I said!
What's wrong with the way l look now? l just go to wedding with old hair.
Shit! She always does this!
My mom always does this.
Whatever l say, whatever l do, whatever I think, she always has the perfect countermove.
As if she had been the chess champion.
Even at that age, l knew l had an amazing gift, this power, this belief in myself to be better than anyone else. lf someone was bigger than me, oIder than me, it didn't matter.
And if they were mean, l could make 'em sorry.
Congratulations. lt was the only part of my life to this day where l trusted myself completely.
Good work. -Thank you. Thank you. l was safe there. -Very nice.
-We're very lucky. Thank you. -l still cry remembering that.
-You not see Life magazine? No.
I told my daughter, "Use your horses
"to run over the enemy."
-She won very quickly this way. -Good.
-Bye-bye. Say bye-bye. -Bye-bye.
And you will know our love was meant to be Bye-bye.
-One fine day -Hi.
Ah, Mrs. Chew!
Oh, you know my daughter, Waverly Jong, chess champion?
-Bye. -Thank you. Bye-bye.
I wish you wouldn't do that, telling everyone I'm your daughter.
What you mean?
You so ashamed to be with your mother?
It's not that. It's just that it's so
-embarrassing, that's all. -What? Embarrassed
-to be my daughter? -That's not what I said.
Then what you say? Look at me.
Look at me!
Why do you have to use me to show off?
If you wanna show off, then why don't you learn to play chess?
One fine day You're gonna want me for your girl
Waverly! Waverly! You come back!
About time. Boy, are you in trouble.
Sit down. Eat.
This girl not have concerning for us.
We not concerning this girl.
I'm never gonna play chess again.
You can't make me.
You can torture me all you want, I still won't.
Did you hear what I said?
For months l kept expecting Ma to beg me to play chess again, but she never mentioned it, as if l had never played at all.
Guess what? I've decided to play chess again.
You think it is so easy.
One day quit, next day play.
Everything for you is this way.
So smart, so easy, so fast.
Not so easy anymore.
What she said, it was like a curse.
This power l had, this belief in myself,
l could actually feel it draining away.
l could feel myself becoming so ordinary.
AII the secrets I once saw,
l couldn't see them anymore.
AII I couId see was, were my mistakes, my weaknesses.
-The best part of me just...
But l can't put it all on my mother.
l did it to myself.
l never played chess again.
She needs a cut and a perm, Trevor.
And this color of hers, it's from that cheap black dye she's been using at home.
God forbid she'd pay to have anything professionally done.
Why I should pay? What for?
Why I should pay $90? To act like you? So important.
Go to fancy barber with torn-up jeans.
Darlene, we need a shampoo here.
l mean, l even married a Chinese guy to please her.
He was gorgeous. He gave her a granddaughter.
But was she satisfied?
When we got divorced, she got all upset like it was my fault.
I just want to show you something. It's upstairs.
And when l finally started dating again, when I tried to hint to her about Rich, that we were living together...
How could she not notice?
This was not going to go away, even with her silent treatment.
This is what I wanted to show you.
You know Rich, the guy I told you about?
I don't know why he got it for me. It's really never cold enough to wear.
You wanna try it?
This not so good.
Only leftover strips.
See? Fur too short.
No long hairs.
How can you criticize a gift?
He gave this to me with all his heart.
That's why I told you. Not so good.
l wasn't gonna let her get away with it this time, making me feel bad about Rich, the love of my life who treated me like l was perfect.
Well, aren't you gonna say anything else?
What I should say?
About the apartment, about this!
All of this!
We're here! Where is everybody?
The next week, l brought Rich to Mom's birthday dinner, sort of a surprise present. l figured she was going to have to accept Rich, like it or not.
-Uh, Rich, this is my father. -How're ya doin'?
-Happy birthday, Mom. -How are you?
-I'm good, thank you. -And, Ma, this is Rich.
Great to meet you.
Boy, something smells wonderful.
I guess we came to the right place, huh?
Here you are.
You know, Waverly has been telling me that you are the best cook.
I think maybe we got her.
So many spots on his face.
Ofcourse, the night was still young.
Thank God I already prepped him on the Emily Post of Chinese manners.
How are you?
Actually, there were a few things l forgot to mention.
Let me make a toast.
He shouldn't have had that second glass when everyone else had had only half an inch just for taste.
Shrimp. My favorite.
He should have taken only a small spoonful of the best dish until everyone had had a helping.
He has good appetite.
He shouldn't have bragged he was a fast learner.
But the worst was when Rich criticized my mother's cooking, and he didn't even know what he had done.
As is the Chinese cook's custom, my mother always insults her own cooking, but only with the dishes she serves with special pride.
This dish not salty enough.
No flavor. It's too bad to eat.
That was our cue to eat some and proclaim it the best she'd ever made.
You know, Lindo, all this needs is a little soy sauce.
So, how'd your mom react when you told her about the wedding?
It never came up.
She'd rather get rectal cancer.
Ma! Soft wave for body?
What do you think?
Look, she doesn't want it too short.
Otherwise it'll be too tight for the wedding.
And we don't want it looking too weird or kinky.
Isn't that right, Ma? Not too kinky?
Why does my daughter think she's translating English for me?
Maybe I don't go.
-What do you mean? -Maybe I don't go to your wedding.
-Oh, don't be ridiculous. -Maybe already ridiculous.
Hair too ridiculous for future husband's family.
l could see her face looking at me, but not seeing me.
She was ashamed, so ashamed to be my daughter.
-What's wrong? -Nothing.
I only thinking, thinking about my mother, how much I wanted to be like her.
She told me all the hopes she had for me, words l would never forget.
You're so lucky.
You don't have ears like mine.
You'll have a better life!
But listen carefully to what is calling.
Can you feel in your heart... what I am saying?
Will you always keep it there?
You know... after today...
I will never...
give you any more advice.
ln my memory, my...
My mother's very important to me, just like her words.
Easy to appreciate memory.
Why don't you like Rich?
Is Rich you afraid I not like?
If I don't like your Rich, I act polite, say nothing, let him have big cancer, let my daughter be a widow.
I like Rich. Of course I do.
To allow him to marry such a daughter.
You don't know...
You don't know the power you have over me.
One word from you, one look, and I'm four years old again, crying myself to sleep.
Because nothing I do
could ever, ever please you.
Now you make me happy.
Look, look, look, look, Ma, Ma, Auntie Ying, Auntie Ying.
-I did it. -Rich!
Where'd it go? Did it go inside? Oh, come on.
God, I can't take you anywhere.
-Lena, do you wanna eat? -Thank you.
-Oh, here's a fork. -Okay.
Wow! That's beautiful, huh?
-What's the matter, guest of honor? -Yeah!
Should eat more! Should eat more! Too skinny!
I thought you said I was getting fat.
Auntie An Mei said that. Why you always confusing us?
June's so happy, going to China, see her sisters at last.
Can't get you fat.
How terrible for Suyuan.
To lose your babies, never know if they are alive or dead.
Only one thing's worse.
l was only 16.
Open the watermelon!
Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Ah, Lin Xiao...
After that, everything like this dream.
Thank you for coming.
I have persuaded the famous diva, Miss Bai Yen, There he was to sing in honor of my son. with his opera singer.
This was not his first conquest.
Only the first l permitted myself to recognize.
By then l knew what kind of man I had married.
Happiest when he was cruel.
Let me have him.
He became forgetful.
Don't touch it!
So forgetful he had not returned by the next morning.
Or the next evening.
This person is a whore.
Just like you.
Listen to that voice!
Strong... like his father!
Look at you!
You make me sick!
Clean up this mess!
You hear me?
My whole life turned in this moment.
If I had Ieft him or kiIIed him, I would not have lost the one thing that mattered.
My mind kept repeating a single thought.
He had taken from me my innocence, my youth, my heart, everything.
So I took from him the only thing l could.
My baby was so light in my arms, because his little spirit had flown away.
And with his, my spirit had also gone.
Years Iater, I moved to America.
But what I had done in China was always with me.
In time, I remarried and l had a daughter.
But Lena had no spirit, because l had none to give her.
Are you hungry yet?
Mommy, please answer me.
Mommy? Oh, Mom!
As l was growing up there were times when Mom went through these bad spells.
She often seemed scared and sad.
But she would never talk about it except to say that she had been married to a bad man in China.
Over the years, Mom got better, although it seemed like all her fears turned into worries about me.
So now that I'm married and she's visiting our new house, l hope she can finally be happy for me.
Don't worry. Everything's fine.
He's very nice to me.
-What's this? -Why don't you rest in the living room?
I'll make you some tea, okay?
I've got some chrysanthemum tea.
-What's this writing? -Mom! It's nothing.
You know. It's just things we share.
At least that's what Harold calls it.
Sharing. Everything 50-50.
So our love is always equal.
The irony is, l was the one who started it that way.
-Oh, total? -Each.
What, you don't have enough?
It's just, I was never very good at math.
So what ifl had a salad and he had three courses?
We were equals.
Except that l work in his firm and he pays himself seven times more than he pays me.
Seven and a half.
And then last year, when we finally decided to get married, we agreed, love, yes, false dependencies, no.
With most everything, we keep track of what we spend, then split it 50-50.
Of course, we agreed early on not to include personal stuff like my tampons and feminine hygiene spray and his shaving lotion and foot powder.
Honey, isn't there a generic brand of cat food?
I mean, do they know the difference? For crying out loud, $34.76.
But we still have these philosophical arguments about the gray areas.
Like magazines l subscribe to, which he reads, but only because they're there.
And the cat!
Even the goddamn cat's fleas.
You gave her to me as a birthday gift.
And now you want me to pay to get rid of her fleas?
Ice cream you don't share.
You don't eat ice cream.
Ever since that time you got sick on strawberry and chocolate flavor together.
Now you must pay for half of his ice cream?
Why do you do this?
Lena, when you buy charcoal, you have to buy lighter fluid.
Don't you know that yet? Do I have to remind you every time?
Lena cannot eat ice cream.
What are we talking about?
I've hated ice cream all my life.
I don't touch the stuff.
Well, I assumed you were always trying to diet or something.
Oh, yes, she's lost so much weight you can't see her anymore.
One million dollars, and the walls are still crooked.
It's bad luck.
Harold wanted to keep it that way for the effect.
For effect? A person has to lie here thinking she's in a coffin?
Careful. It's not too sturdy.
Harold made it back in college.
Why do you keep it?
You put one more thing on top and everything falls down.
Do you need anything else?
What is a drag race? -What an idiot!
Regatta, not drag race!
I don't believe this guy.
I said, would you close the window, please? It's cold.
That's right for 1,000.
Takes you to an even 6,000.
There's the bell for "Final Jeopardy." You have 30 sec...
Honey, move. What's going on?
I don't think you should get credit for your ice cream anymore.
You got it. End of discussion.
Why do you have to be so goddamn fair?
Just what is this about exactly?
I don't know. Maybe everything.
The way we account for everything.
What we share, what we don't share. I'm sick of it.
Adding things up, subtracting. Making it come out even when it's not.
I'm sick of it.
You're the one who wanted the cat!
What are you talking about?
All right. If you think I'm being unfair, we'll both pay for the fleas.
This is not about fleas. That is not the point.
Then, please, tell me.
What is the point?
I... I just think that we need to change things.
We need to think about what this marriage is based on.
Not this balance sheet.
Well, I know what our marriage is based upon.
And if you don't, then you better think about it before you start to change things.
All around this house, l see the signs.
My daughter looks, but she does not see.
This is a house that will break into pieces.
It's not too late.
All my pains, my regrets, l will gather them together.
My daughter will hear me calling, even though l've said no words.
-She will climb the stairs to find me. -Mom?
She wiII be scared, because at first her eyes will see nothing.
-She will feel in her heart... -Mom?
...this place where she hides her fears.
She will know I am waiting like a tiger in the trees now ready to leap out and cut her spirit loose.
Do you know what you want?
I mean, from him.
Then tell him now.
And leave this lopsided house.
Do not come back until he will give you those things.
With both hands open.
Losing him does not matter.
It is you who will be found
So my mom sees this mirror at the foot of our bed.
She says, "Ai-ya, a mirror there is bad luck.
"All the romance will hit the mirror, poom, go back the opposite direction."
So what'd you do? -We moved it.
Yeah, put that baby right on the ceiling.
-Waverly loved it. So I've heard.
This guy will do anything for her. But they're allies.
But now it's getting out of hand, because after the party, we're going to Lake Tahoe, and he actually asked her to come with us.
Okay! -She'd have a great time!
Choosing between the two of us, I'd rather I had the great time.
-You'll have a good time. -Easy, cowboy.
Ah, ah, ah, save some room for dessert.
My mom's cake is coming out, and I'm counting on you guys for two slices apiece.
She'll eat five. Ten.
Do I have to use chopsticks? Because it could take a while.
Her Auntie June is putting her down for a nap.
I'll go check on her.
And now the woman was old.
And she had a daughter who grew up speaking only English and swallowing more Coca-Cola than sorrow.
-What's "sorrow"? -Sadness.
For a long time now, the woman wanted to give her daughter the single swan feather and tell her...
Is the swan real? Is there really a swan?
I don't know, baby. It's my mama's story.
And we can't ask her, 'cause she's dead.
And the woman would tell her daughter, "This feather may look worthless, "but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions."
-What's "intentions"? -Oh, a good intention means
-everything your mommy wants for you. -Oh.
Like blowing out candles on your birthday cake.
-Like it? -It's great.
It's gonna be great for June.
I bet the twins are in China right now, dreaming about their little American sister.
Yes, but their mother, that's who they waited for all these years.
-They will be so sad. -They already know.
Auntie Lindo wrote them.
As a little girl, l wondered every day.
Worst of aII, I had to wonder in secret. l had no memory of my mother, because she was kicked out of the house when l was four years old.
You are not my daughter.
If you have any self-respect, you should kill yourself.
Your husband just died, and you've become another man's concubine.
The scar from the soup was all l had left of my mother.
My grandmother, my uncle and my aunties, they taught me to hate her.
They accused her of breaking her vow as a widow and running away to marry a rich man, who already had a wife, two concubines and other children.
Then one day, as my grandmother was lying in her deathbed,
If you have any dignity, leave right away.
Let your mother go to heaven in peace.
You are no longer her daughter.
l saw my own face looking back at me.
It was an old tradition.
Only the most dutiful of daughters would put her own flesh in a soup...
Ma. -...to save her mother's life.
My mother did this with her whoIe heart, even though my grandmother had disowned her.
This is how a daughter honors her mother.
The pain of the flesh is nothing.
The pain you must forget.
This is the most important sacrifice a daughter can make for her mother.
Mama, don't leave.
An Mei, Mama's leaving.
Respect your uncle and your aunties.
Remember, be obedient!
Don't forget your mama.
If you take this child away, she will become like you.
Never able to face anyone.
Never able to lift her head.
I lost her once before.
This time l took my chance before it was too late.
You are going to ruin her whole life!
Mom? Mom? Let's go.
Jennifer, give the soup to Mommy. I'm afraid you'll spill it.
There you go.
Ted coming to dinner?
Why do you ask that?
You bought flour, egg, bittersweet Hershey bar.
Good for only chocolate peanut butter pie. Who else eat?
Well, it's not a dinner exactly.
Just sort of a meeting at the house tonight.
-Meeting? -Yeah, well, we both thought it was time to settle all the property stuff.
-Both? -Yeah, both. Absolutely.
What you going to ask for?
What are you talking about?
Talking about what you're worth.
That first afternoon he introduced himself on campus, he asked to borrow my notes. l pretended l didn't know who he was.
This is so good. It is.
People look at the newspaper, and they see the articles...
I don't know why I'm saying this.
I knew who you were when you came up to me.
I've watched you for weeks, like all the girls watch you,
and I was excited and flattered when you came on to me.
So I baked you this pie and we had dinner.
Only I don't know who you are.
I know who your family is and what they do.
Suddenly, I'm starting to wonder whether I belong in this conversation.
I don't like feeling that way.
I love you said that.
I didn't say it to impress you.
That's why it did.
His dad owned a publishing empire.
His mom's family had wineries. l'd never been around people like this.
-Dad. Mom. -Hi.
This is Rose Hsu, my girlfriend.
The one word sent me into totaI shock, from which, I'm afraid, l've never quite recovered.
-Hello. Hi. Hello.
Is this a private reverie or can an old lady join you?
You and Ted haven't known each other long, have you?
I've never heard him speak of you until this morning.
But it's always a thrill for a mother to hear that sort of excitement in her son's voice.
So I hope you won't misunderstand what I have to say.
I want you to know, Rose, that we're a very liberal family. l couldn't believe what she was telling me. lt was straight out of some awtuI racist movie, like The World of Suzie Wong.
Ted is going to be working with his father in the company.
He's going to be judged by people of a different standard.
Publishers, authors, critics and their wives.
They won't be as understanding as we are.
Mrs. Jordan, you sound as if Ted and I are getting married.
That's hardly the case.
Oh, I know, dear, it's just that, well, the way the world is.
How unpopular Vietnam was.
I'm not Vietnamese. I'm American.
Of course you are. It's just...
I understand you. That's all I'm trying to say.
-Do you understand? Mom?
-We're having a wonderful visit. -"Hello, darling"?
You know, I always knew you were a jerk.
But, shit, this is the first time in my life I am ashamed of you.
How dare you use that language.
I think you better apologize right now.
I'm sorry, Mom, you made a fuckin' asshole out of yourself in front of the woman I love.
We're outta here.
l wasn't sorry what his mother did.
How eIse wouId I have known, if he hadn't rescued me, how wonderful he was?
That he loved me.
In six months, we were married.
After the wedding, the fears began to sink in, take hold.
Everything l had married into.
The pressure, the weight of it. l promised myself that l could handle it.
That nothing, nothing could ever change me.
Wayne, could you chop this up into smaller slices?
Last time they were way too big. Thanks.
Also, could you dress the deviled eggs with tomatoes...
At first, it was just a bunch of little things, loving things a wife would do behind the scenes without him even knowing.
You know, like paying the househoId biIIs, buying him special gifts that showed my love.
It's still too salty.
The beautiful part was, he never had to ask for any of this.
In fact, he never even knew.
l told myself that was the selfless way, the loving way, instead of the chickenshit way.
l was offered a fellowship in fine arts to this school I admired in Idaho.
Of course, that was out of the question.
The interesting part was, l never asked the question, not even of myself.
I really don't understand.
He was running two of his family's magazines now.
There were four or five business affairs each week. l was glad to help and knew he appreciated it.
-I just don't understand that at all.
I don't... I really don't.
If you can explain to me... Because...
And, over time, I could see that Ted was becoming bored.
We said less and less.
So I tried harder.
l got pregnant for the worst reason imaginable, a last attempt to hang on.
Of course, I never thought of it that way at the time.
-The good news was, he adored her.
Honey, should we eat in or out tonight?
-You decide. -Well, if we eat in, I've got lamb chops.
-Or I could call Ernie's or Square One. -Whatever you want.
Really, it'll be great.
Okay. I didn't mean to interrupt your work.
-I'll figure something out. -You're not interrupting me.
Really, I meant what I said. I want to hear what you want.
'Cause I could defrost a chicken if the lamb chops are too heavy.
You've had a hard day. I don't really care.
I just want you to be happy.
Honey, what's wrong?
Did I say something wrong?
It's just that once in a while, I would like to hear what you want.
-What do you mean? -I mean, I'd like to hear your voice.
Even if we disagree.
-You used to be different. -Different?
You used to have an opinion. We used to argue.
That's what you want? You want us to argue?
I want you to be here.
Honey, I'm here. I'm here for you. You just have to...
Just tell me what you want.
I told you, I'll do the chicken.
Are you happy?
Of course I am.
What's her name?
Is she beautiful?
Look. I think that we have to sell the house.
But anything that you want, any special things that you need, you let me know.
-I mean, any cash, call Barry and he... -What's her fucking name?
What's the difference?
She's not the reason.
What you going to do with leftovers after he eat one slice?
Throw it away, I guess.
You ask yourself why you make this?
Because I know, even if you don't.
I like being tragic, Ma.
I learned it from you.
You think he sees this pie, now he's so sorry take you for granted.
You think this, you the foolish one.
Every time you give him gift, like begging.
"Take this. Oh, sorry.
"Please forgive me.
"I'm not worth as much as you."
So he only take you more for granted.
You're just like my mother.
Never know what you're worth.
Until too late.
When l went to live with my mother, l thought l had become so happy, so important.
Then my new family returned from the countryside.
Wu Tsing, his other wives and children.
Now l wondered what my place in this family would be.
First Wife was a ghost of a woman.
She blinded herself to the faults of her daughters.
Third Wife never gave Wu Tsing a son and lived in fear she'd be kicked out.
But even she outranked my mother, who was only Fourth Wife, the newest one.
And finally, Second Wife, the empress of the household, with Wu Tsing's only son. l watched how my mother looked at this boy.
And l wondered why.
So you've come back already.
This is the daughter you wanted permission to bring?
Yes. Her name is An Mei.
Put this on.
Second Wife, this is too expensive... for a small child.
She is not worthy of it.
Who is she to say who is worthy?
A treasure like you, needs precious pearls to light up your face.
You may call me Big Mother.
Give them back. Hurry now.
If you don't thank Big Mother, you will make me very angry.
Thank you Big Mother.
An-Mei, give me the necklace!
I know you don't want to.
But I will not have her buy you for such a cheap price.
My precious pearl necklace that had almost bought my mind and heart, it was made out of glass.
Why should you believe me?
I have become nothing.
A Fourth Wife!
A low-class concubine.
I was not always like this.
I was a First Wife.
Your father's only wife!
Never forget that!
You are a daughter of a First Wife.
My daughter is with me.
Then send her away.
Or let her watch!
An-Mei, go to your nanny's room.
An-Mei, why are you here alone?
I've been looking for you everywhere.
Is that his smell?
Why did you bring me here?
Nanny told me.
She told me everything.
You went to West Lake Temple, to make offerings in memory of my father.
Wu Tsing saw you there.
Second Wife invited you over... to play mah jong.
That night, Wu Tsing came to your room...
I toId her the rest so fast, as if it would hurt her less.
Ma! Ma! Ma!
No one believed she was raped.
-Not even her own mother.
She had nothing. No one would take her in.
No one would give her work.
And she was carrying Wu Tsing's child.
To save her baby, there was only one place she could go.
And when he was born, my little brother, Give me back my son!
Second Wife claimed him as her reward.
Give me back my son!
I stayed alive, to keep my hope of seeing you again one day.
So it's all true!
I brought you here to give you a better life.
I know what I really have to do.
Mama! Wake up!
Hurry, wake up!
They were doing nothing, only waiting for my mother to die.
Second Wife told me my mother had died by accident, taking too much opium.
Lies! l know my mother killed herself on purpose.
She had eaten sticky sweet dumplings, one after the other, filled with opium.
When the poison broke into her body, she whispered to me that she would rather kill her own weak spirit so she could give me a stronger one.
Can you see?
Can you see I am no longer scared?
I am strong now.
I see clearly now... what's true and what's false.
My mother chose the date of her death to give me the power over her enemies.
My mother's ghost will return... in three days to settle scores.
That day will be the Lunar New Year.
All debts must be paid by then.
Or horrible tragedies will befall you.
Lord Buddha, forgive me.
So, on that day, Wu Tsing promised to revere my mother as if she had been First Wife, his only wife.
He promised to raise me and my mother's son as his honored chiIdren, the highest position.
And on that day, Second Wife hair began to turn white.
And on that day, I learned to shout.
Mom, what does it mean?
What does it mean, Mommy?
I tell you the story because I was raised the Chinese way.
I was taught to desire nothing, to swallow other people's misery and to eat my own bitterness.
And even though I taught my daughter the opposite, but still she came out the same way.
Maybe it is because she was born to me and she was born a girl.
And I was born to my mother and I was born a girl.
All of us like stairs, one step after another, going up, going down, but always going the same way.
But, no, this cannot be.
This, this not knowing what you're worth.
This not begin with you.
My mother not know her worth until too late.
Too late for her, but not for me.
Now, we will see if not too late for you, hmm?
I'm standing out in the rain, ringing the bell for 1 5 minutes.
Are you okay?
Are you okay?
Get out of my house.
You heard me. Get out!
Honey, it's our house.
We agreed to sell it. That's why I'm here.
You're not taking my house.
You're not taking my daughter.
You're not taking any part of me.
'Cause you don't know who I am.
I died 60 years ago.
I ate opium, and I died
for my daughter's sake.
Now get out of my house!
-I'm listening. -It's not your fault. None of it.
I was the one who told you that my love wasn't good enough,
that your love was worth more than mine.
I was so full of shit.
-Mmm, very good.
-Can I have a bit? -It's Auntie June's piece.
-It is? -Yeah.
-Mmm. Thank you. -Sure.
It's so wonderful, Rosie, how everybody's here.
Yeah. Your mom would've been so proud.
No meal's ever gonna be the same without your mom's famous crab.
Last Chinese New Year, we had Auntie Lindo's family to dinner. lt was the last time my mom would ever cook her famous crab.
Old Chong, everything all right?
How is everything?
Oh... Excellent. Bravo.
Best, best quality.
You see? Best quality.
That's how my mother was.
Everything had to be the best.
She beIieved the same about me, that l could be anything.
l was the biggest disappointment in my mother's life.
Shoshana, stop playing with your food.
Say, didn't you play the piano once?
-No, not really. -Yeah, I could've sworn.
After all these years, she was still so sneaky.
Hey, June, how your business go?
Your mother tell me you're busy, busy, busy.
It's going pretty good.
Although one of my clients seems to think that freelance means free just because we're friends.
Listen, June, I don't know how to tell you this.
But that stuff you wrote...
Well, the firm decided it was unacceptable.
You... You said... You said it was terrific. You said that...
I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I was trying to see if I could fix it somehow, but it just won't work.
Look. All copy needs fine-tuning.
Rewrites are free, of course.
I'm just as concerned about making it perfect as you are.
June, I really don't think...
Just tell me what they want to have changed.
I'll give you a call next week, okay?
We'll go over it, line by line.
June, I can't.
It's just not, well, sophisticated.
I'm sure what you do for your other clients is wonderful.
And we are a big firm.
And we need somebody who understands that.
-Who understands our style. -What does style have to do with it?
I mean, really, June. "Three benefits. Three needs.
"Three reasons to buy. Satisfaction guaranteed.
"For today's and tomorrow's tax needs."
That's just part of it.
Yeah, the bad part.
True. Cannot teach style.
June not like Waverly.
Must be born this way.
l was so humiliated.
Outsmarted by Waverly and betrayed by my own mother.
I see you didn't touch your crab.
Like I said at dinner, not hungry.
What? Still mad at Waverly?
How could I be mad at someone with all that style?
It's just a shame that I wasn't born that way.
-So it's me you're mad at? -No.
I'm just sorry that you got stuck with such a loser.
That I've always been so disappointing.
What do you mean, disappoint?
-Piano? -Everything. My grades, my job.
Not getting married.
-Everything you expected of me. -Not expect anything!
Only hoping best for you.
-It's not wrong to hope. -No?
Well, it hurts.
Because every time you hoped for something I couldn't deliver, it hurt.
It hurt me, Mommy.
And no matter what you hoped for, I'll never be more than what I am.
And you never see that!
What I really am.
June, since your baby time, I wear this next to my heart.
Now you wear next to yours.
It will help you know.
I see you.
I see you.
That bad crab, only you tried to take it.
Everybody else want best quality.
You, your thinking different.
Waverly took best-quality crab.
You took worst.
Because you have best-quality heart.
You have style no one can teach.
Must be born this way.
I see you.
-To June. To June.
-Oh, God. -Thank you.
Well, take all of this love with you to China tonight.
-Ohh. Speech, speech.
-No, no, no. -Louder, louder.
Well, she spilled on my hair. -Shhh, shhh, shhh.
Not on me. -Shhh, shhh, shhh.
I've known all of you for so long.
-Rose, Lena, Waverly.
Since we were babies and kids fighting over dolls.
It's amazing, isn't it?
Auntie Lindo, Auntie Ying Ying, Auntie An Mei, longtime friends of my mother, you are like second mothers to me
I mean, you gave her back to me by finding my sisters.
You've given me something I can still do for her.
Here I thought it was too late. Well, it isn't.
All right. Well, good night, T.C. Good night, Daisy.
-Thank you. Bye-bye. -Okay. Good-bye.
I have something I must tell you.
One little thing I forget tell you.
You know I write letter to your sisters telling them how happy you are to find them, how happy you are you go to China to see them...
Yes, Auntie Lindo, you've already told me this.
And then I signed it, from your mother.
You signed the letter in my mother's name?
I try write different letter telling them, "So sad, too late. Mother gone, dead."
But how can I write such letter? No.
This is my thinking, better hear from own sister.
Important news. You only one who can...
You... You mean, they think that she's still alive?
Oh, my God. My God.
You have to write back. Tell them that she's dead. I can't tell them that.
Auntie Lindo, you have to write another letter!
Too late. No way to do this.
You leaving tonight. You must go. You tell them.
Anyway, this is best way. That my thinking.
You know, ever since Mommy died, it's like a mystery where everything is.
She hides everything. Jewelry, even the fake stuff.
For three years she tried to tell me where she hide everything in case she die.
I guess I wasn't listening.
I picked some things for them.
You tell me if they're okay.
This one is from me.
Old photos of Mom in China.
I don't need old photos for memory. I have lots.
You have lots. Now they should have her.
-Am I right? -Yeah.
Maybe when they see picture of Mom so young, so beautiful, they can still remember her.
Not like the way she looked when she left them.
The way she looked?
Very bad dysentery.
Back then, no medicine, no doctors.
She almost died, you know.
She never told you?
She thought, "Better not die next to my babies.
"Nobody saves babies with such bad luck.
"Who wants two babies with ghost mother following them?
"Very bad luck. Very."
You know, everything she had she left with those babies.
Everything worth anything.
She left a note with all her gold, promising more if babies brought to their father in Chungking.
So much bad luck.
Then she thought even worser luck, someone save her after she left them.
Put her in a truck.
She woke up in the hospital, screaming, wanting to die.
One more thing. I found this in Mommy's jewelry box.
I know she was saving it for you.
Someday she was going to give to you. I think now.
Go ahead, open it.
It's good luck for China.
See? It's a swan feather.
-Swan feather? -She decided she couldn't give that feather to you, not yet.
She didn't think you would understand.
Well, I guess I was never very good at listening to her.
No! No, no, no. She thought she wasn't worthy enough mother to give it to you.
Worthy enough for me?
Because she gave up hope about her other daughters, how can she show you how to hope big when she had lost hope?
A mother, mother can never give up her hope for her own children.
But she never did.
On the day you're born, she transfer all her hope to you, all hope from those babies.
She transferred all her hopes to me?
I love you, Daddy.
l will tell them this feather may look worthless,
but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions.
Hey, hey, hey!
Mama's gone to heaven.
Gone? Mama's dead?
Four months ago.
I'm so sorry.
She loved you very much.
I'm your sister. June.
Our little sister.
I've come to take our mother's place.
I've come to bring you her hopes...
lt was enough for them and for me.
Because really she was there and l'd finally done something for her. l'd found the best of myself, what she kept for all of us, her long-cherished wish.