Sunday, February 28, 2021

Zoe's One Month Celebration

Zoe is now a month old and nearly eight pounds heavy, according to our jerry-rigged baby scale (we use our food scale with a large plastic serving dish on top, lol). She is still a sleepy little newborn, but she has started to show an increased awareness of her being and of her environment, which unfortunately comes with much fuss, much cling, and much drama.

In Chinese culture, a baby's one-month birthday is cause for a big celebration because it usually indicates that she would have a good chance of surviving.  Back in ancient times, infant mortality rates were high.  Today, Chinese families keep the tradition going because no matter what, reaching this age is still a gift and a relief.  Zoe has gained back the weight that she had lost after birth and then some!  She's looking quite chubby and that hair is full and lush.  Though Wes's family is Cantonese and my family is Taiwanese, there is still overlap in each family's Chinese roots.  Both sides still recognize the one-month mark as an important milestone.

With the pandemic still under way (but getting better!), we had to host this event outdoors again.  Fortunately, the weather was great for February in Altadena and we had tables and chairs for all.  Nobody really used them, though, because everyone was on his or her feet, passing Zoe around.  She stayed mostly asleep the whole time, but of course when she so much as opened her eyes or stretched out her fingers, she was met with loads of "oohs" and "aahs" from her loving grandparents, aunt and uncle, and great grandmother.  What a lucky baby!  Wes's parents brought all of the food, and Wes picked up Mommy's favorite Porto's cake.  

We performed a couple of symbolic rituals for fun today.  First, Zoe received red envelopes from everybody.  She had also been given red envelopes immediately after she was born, but she got even more today!  Also, it is customary to present gold jewelry to babies at the one-month party.  Wes's mom (Zoe's Nai-Nai 奶奶) gifted Zoe a golden chain with a small rectangular pendant.  I still have tiny little rings and necklaces from my own one-month birthday from my relatives.  When Wes's mom placed this chain around Zoe's neck, I was reminded of how she had clasped golden bracelets around my wrists when Wes and I were engaged.  

In Chinese culture, it's also a practice to shave baby's hair at the first month of life to shed the birth hair they received from the womb.  Zoe was one of those babies who came out with a lot of hair, not only on her head, but all over her back and shoulders!  Of course, we did not follow this tradition exactly (we don't want Zoe looking exactly like her dad now, do we?), but Wes's dad (Zoe's Ye-Ye 爺爺) wanted to snip a small bit of Zoe's hair ceremonially.  When Grandpa got close with the scissors, Wes and I both instinctually withdrew Zoe from the blades and squealed.  It was very entertaining.  Wes was super picky about which part of her head his dad was allowed to cut the hair from.  Fortunately after the deed was done, we couldn't even tell where the hair had been trimmed!  Now, we have the hair in a little blue box for safekeeping.  Traditionally, if her head was actually shaved, the hair could be made into a calligraphy brush or tied with red string.  I guess we will see what we want to do with it, but I'm actually glad to have it!

Auntie Margaret and Uncle Andrew came all the way up from San Diego and got to hold Zoe for the first time, and it was very sweet to see the newlyweds with a little baby.  Margaret took almost all of the photos in this post so that we could soak in the joyful moments while she documented the memories.  We really appreciate this!  

My mom (Zoe's Po-Po 婆婆 ), showed me a project that she has been working hard on: a collection of Chinese poems and nursery rhymes for me to read or recite to Zoe.  I actually have been trying to find Chinese books and trying to recall the rhymes that I knew from my own childhood, and saving little texts from my mom in a note on my phone whenever she sent me one.  Now, with this collection, I will have everything in one place!  It's so special to me too because it's not anything that money can buy.  Each verse in this binder is specially selected by my mom, who is a Chinese literary genius and aficionado.  She is having my dad (Zoe's A-Gong 阿公) help out with writing the phonetic symbols next to each Chinese character on every page, since unfortunately I cannot read everything.  Now, if only I could sing the songs to Zoe in as sweet a voice as Po-Po's and get rid of my Americanized Chinese accent!

There were many great moments from the day, but I think my favorite was watching my grandmother, A-Ma, hold the baby.  A-Ma (Zoe's A-zou 阿祖) has been waiting to be a great-grandmother for a very long time, and I am so glad to be able to finally give her that title.  Because of the pandemic, I was unable to visit A-Ma during my entire pregnancy, as she lives in a large apartment complex (and still would play Mah-Jong with her friends with their masks off, yolo!).  She did come over one time for the gender reveal, but other than that, it's been all Zoom or FaceTime.  My dad said that she would always remember and ask how things were going, though, and she would always say on the family chat, "I am about to level up!"  On this day, A-Ma was not even sure if it was safe for her to hold Zoe, but we wanted to give her that chance of a lifetime. Throughout the afternoon, I would catch A-Ma standing over the stroller, staring into the bassinet, transfixed.  She kept repeating, "It's been twenty years since we've had a baby in the family!"  It must feel amazing to be at the top of four generations!

We were not expecting to have such a party during the pandemic, but it was totally worth it to observe these age-old traditions that have been passed down for hundreds of years by our ancestors.  We as ABC's (American-born Chinese) are very proud to carry these historic cultural practices into the next generation.  Although we will be doing things our way, we want Zoe to grow up knowing her heritage and hopefully having an appreciation and understanding of where all of her grandparents and great-grandparents came from.  The names that she will call them are from various dialects: Chinese, Taiwanese, and Cantonese.  Maybe when she gets engaged, she will receive golden bracelets, too.  Or maybe, she will meet someone who is from a different cultural background and she will blend her culture with his.  And maybe if she gives birth to a child, I will be giving that child my golden jewelry.  And so on, and so forth.  I'm probably getting ahead of myself here, but the thought of this is beautiful.  Only the future knows what it beholds!  For now, we shall enjoy each moment as family.

And these were the commemorative photos that Wes took before all of the guests arrived:

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