I happened to catch an article in the International Examiner by Pei Ju Chou on her new documentary “Children of Golden Grill”. The short documentary film (watch the film above) contains interviews of a group of cousins who spent their childhood working at one of their parent’s Chinese restaurant. It covers their feelings, emotions and the bond they shared by being “restaurant children”. While I wasn’t a “restaurant child”, meaning I wasn’t forced to work at a Chinese restaurant, my mom, sister and aunt all did work at a local Chinese restaurant while I was growing up, so I feel like I’ve got some connection to the experiences that Pei Ju Chou talks about. My guess is that many Asian children of immigrants will find they have similar experiences working at the family restaurant, dry cleaners, or other family business.
Watching the documentary brought back a number of memories from childhood. I remember the long hours that my mother put in at the local Chinese restaurant. I remember how tired she was at the end of every day, and I remember the day she came home crying because some kid had stolen the entire contents of her tip jar that she kept at the back of the restaurant. I remember because it was close to Christmas and she was depending on that money for presents. She spent that entire evening making herself a new apron with large pockets so she could keep all her tips with her and got rid of that tip jar the next day. If there were any other choice for work, I think my mom would have taken it, and she did, working at different factories when she could find the work.
One interesting point in the documentary, was that almost all the cousins, if given the chance to change their history, would have done it all over again and endured the embarrassment, long hours, missed school activities of working at the family restaurant. Chou also mentions that she’d like to do a follow-on documentary where she interviews the family elders, the ones who own and run the restaurant. That’s a documentary I do want to see, and hope she gets to produce a follow up. I think part of that expectation is I understand the sacrifice that parents go through to come to this country, based on my own parents experiences, and I want to see that experience through the eyes of Asian parents, now that my own parents are no longer with us.