PaperCity Magazine

December 2018- Dallas

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Page 77 of 111

76 I see it every day as I get ready in the morning. It sits on an armoire that has all of my accessories — pieces I grab in an attempt to look presentable before dashing out the door to face the world. An Hermès belt. A Chanel camellia. One pair of my Tom Ford glasses. My mother's jewelry box. I'm happy that particular object is one of the last things I see each day. I brought mom's jewelry box home to Dallas with me in January 2017, having lost her two months prior to a short bout with cancer. While that era of my life is still a fog, I strive to remember mom's last days more vividly. Perhaps this is the reason I still have the voicemail saved on my phone — the one my dad left me when he shared that mom had been admitted to the hospital and the prognosis was cancer. I grew up in the 1970s and '80s in Tallahassee, Florida. That is The South. Mine was a town filled with old homes — I sometimes refer to them as Southern Baptist Neo-Colonials — on hushed canopied roads darkened by Spanish moss. My mom was always well put together, but never a fashion person. She always wore jewelry, whether it was a simple necklace, a watch given to her by my father, or a pair of jade earrings dating back to her time growing up in China. I never knew much about those years until I was an adult. The Tings (my mother's maiden name) fled soon-to-be Communist China rather quickly, with rushed visits to government offices to get paperwork created, as Mao began his Long March. My dad and I still laugh about how many personal details are wrongly documented due to the confusion of the time. Dad's birth year is wrong on his driver's license — and at this point he can only pinpoint his age within a range of two to three years. (He is somewhere between 83 and 85 years old, now.) My mom's entire extended family — aunts, uncles, cousins, and the large staff that worked for them in their compound in Shanghai — boarded ocean liners headed to Brazil, official documents in hand. Many of my relatives still live in São Paulo, a refuge for the wealthy diaspora from China. M y p a r e n t s had already d o w n s i z e d and moved into a retirement community when my mom passed away. They freed themselves of the needless possessions they had been keeping for many years. Gone were the plastic bins of Christmas ornaments they knew would MY MOTHER'S JEWELRY BOX B Y B I L L Y F O N G Top: Iradj Moini mabe pearl bow necklace with Swarovski baguettes $3,630, at Tootsies Left: Limited-edition Marina B Pneu earrings with black sapphires $21,000, at William Noble. Wilma Fong ,1962

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