My daughter, just the other day, gave me her 4th Grade school picture and I got that feeling. You know how when you want to say something about rivers, the intangibility of memory, and a fork slicing through a piece of blueberry pie? It’s like that. But only for a second and then it’s not.
The mothers struggle to express the importance of their Chinese heritage while also keeping balance with “good” American characteristics to their daughters; while the daughters struggle with their identities and relationships with others.
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“Hey you, there! Smile for your daddy!” You surprise your daughter with a camera pointed at her and, quicker than light and thought, a purity of joy erupts across her face and click—got it, happiness, digitized. How do they do that? I like to believe that it’s bigger than classical conditioning, stimulus and response, a camera equals time for a big fake smile. No. The little ones. I imagine them having a direct pipeline to unblemished joy, immediate access to the original thrill of Being, so when they see a camera, the veneer of their surface concerns immediately give way to a religious-like sense of aesthetic pleasure in the fact of just being little beings. Like tiny Zen Masters, they seem to gasp “AH!” and then chuckle wise and true. Here we are again. Little kids are the best subjects of pictures. Still happy about their relatively new status of being subjects at all, they revel in being photographed. They smile like ecstatic sunrises.