“Hi Mom. How are things with you?”
“I’m fine, Jessie. But is everything all right with you and Cecilia? I don’t see her. Is she sleeping?”
“Yes she is. Here, I’ll switch the view to her room and you can see her. We’re both doing fine. She saw the pediatrician yesterday who said her growth and her development are good. In fact she’s developing well ahead of schedule. But the reason I’m calling today is that you know that Cecilia Chao and I have kept in close contact since her visit three months ago. We’ve become quite friendly.”
“Yes, and I’m so happy that’s the case.”
“Her parents in Hong Kong have also stayed in contact with me and it’s been such a turn around from what they felt at first. They want to know all about Cecilia—or as they call her, ‘Little Ceci.’”
“That’s just terrific Jessie! And you were so worried about how they’d react to your letter.”
“Well, they know about my plans to go back to work when she’s nine months old. And Big Ceci—that’s what they call their daughter now to distinguish her from my Cecilia—is going back for Christmas vacation and they invited Cecilia and me along. So that travel would happen before I went back to work. They are really anxious to see her.”
“That’s what I wanted to talk about, Mom. Because it means that if I do go, I won’t be coming home for Christmas.”
“Go Jessie. By all means. I’ll be coming to see you at Thanksgiving anyway. You should give Greg’s parents a chance to see and hold their granddaughter. Can you afford the trip? Do you need some help?”
“They invited me all expenses paid. And first class. Said it would be easier on the two of us.”
“From what Greg told me, they are more than well-off. But I don’t want them to think I’m trying to take advantage of them.”
“You’re doing them a favor by taking Cecilia all that way to see them.”
“There’s my parents!” said Cecilia Chao at the Hong Kong International airport as they exited customs at the crowded international arrival terminal.
Jessica saw a grey haired couple. Early to mid-sixties perhaps, though it was hard to tell age with Chinese, she thought. He’s a good–looking older man and she must have been quite a beauty once—a bit heavy now. They probably feel as awkward meeting me as I feel about meeting them. She followed “Big Ceci,” carrying baby Cecilia.
“Welcome to Hong Kong,” said Mr. Chao, smiling and holding out his hand to her. “May I call you Jessica? And here is little Ceci!”
“Will she let me hold her?” asked Mrs. Chao.
“You will stay in Greg’s room if that’s satisfactory,” said Mr. Chao. “And don’t worry about your luggage—it will be delivered.”
Jessica felt a bit overwhelmed by how rapidly things were progressing. “Here Cecilia, go to Mrs. Chao,” she said handing the baby over.
“She’s letting me carry her, T.F.!” exclaimed Lily.
Then Cecilia began to cry and Lily hastily handed her back to Jessica, “Maybe that was a little sudden for her and she must be tired from the trip. I hope that in time, Little Ceci will get used to me.”
“What a magnificent view of the harbor you have, Mr. Chao,” said Jessie as they sat, two days later, having afternoon tea. Gregg said they were comfortable, but I never expected anything like this, she thought.
“Yes, though the harbor has been altered because of sea level rise. The entire waterfront had to be elevated and rebuilt at tremendous cost and the offshore islands are now somewhat reduced in size. But we never tire of the view. It constantly changes,” replied T.F. Chao. “And please call us T.F. and Lily.”
“Look how readily Little Ceci takes to me,” said Lily Chao carrying the baby back into the room after changing her diaper. She sat and cooed, bouncing Ceci on her lap, “You like your Nainai. That’s grandmother in Chinese,” she said to Jessica.
Big Ceci laughed, “She’s going to be so spoiled by the time you return home, Jessie.”
“Greg told us you didn’t know each other at MIT, but met afterwards,” said Lily.
“Yes. Greg was two years ahead of me and majoring in bio-electrical engineering. I was in economics and statistics. We were introduced in San Diego through mutual friends.”
Xiao Wang, their maid slipped in quietly with more fresh pastries and took the tea pots to refill with hot water.
“You enjoy a very substantial afternoon tea,” observed Jessie.
“Yes,” said Lily. “Some traditional tea sandwiches and pastries, and some small dim sum. East meets West.”
“Like Little Ceci,” Jessie said. Should I have said that? she thought. Too late now.
“Exactly,” said T.F.
“Try this one,” said Cecilia Chao, placing it on Jessie’s plate with serving chopsticks. “They don’t even have it in San Francisco yet.”
“Now Greg told us you are doing financial market analysis with the Bank of the Hemispheres” said Lily.
“Yes. Even before Little Ceci arrived, I was able to work from home more than half the time. When I do go back to work, I’ll only need to go in for some of the meetings. I’ll be able to do everything else from home and by conference call.”
“We’d worried about that. Who would take care of Little Ceci when you returned to work?” said T.F. “Fortunately our worries were baseless.”
“I noticed those beautiful ship models in the entry hall,” said Jessie, changing the subject. “Are they a hobby of yours?”
T.F glanced at Lily before replying. “In a manner of speaking. Those are models of my company’s first ships,” he said.
“Those are models of your ships? Your company is China Shipping Enterprises?” asked Jessica, shocked and feeling somewhat foolish. “Carrying so much of the cargo between North America and China?”
“You mean Greg never mentioned it to you?” asked Lily.
“No. And neither did Cecilia in all the conversations that we’ve had. You are really a master spy,” she said, looking at Big Ceci, who was laughing. “No wonder Greg liked sailing so much.”
“But weren’t you curious about what his family did?” asked Lily.
“Oh sure, I wondered. It’s only natural. He did say you were in the delivery business. But I believed that was up to him to tell me more details when he felt it was important for me to know. In the meantime, not knowing didn’t influence how we felt about each other. But wow! What a delivery business!”
“And your mother didn’t insist that you find out? What if we were in some kind of criminal activity? A Chinese mother would insist on knowing what kind of family her daughter was marrying into,” said Lily.
“Oh Mommy, that’s so old fashioned,” protested Cecilia Chao.
“And don’t you forget it, Cecilia!”
“After this lavish tea, I hope you were planning on a late dinner,” said Jessie, changing the subject diplomatically.
That night as the Chao’s were preparing for bed, T.F. asked Lily, “How do you feel regarding what Jessica said about not knowing what the family business is?”
“I think she was telling us the truth. Greg was careful not to tell her a lie. I guess he wanted to be sure that she was in love with him for himself and not the money.”
“I agree. And it’s certainly true that we do make deliveries,” T.F. laughed. “But I’ve been thinking since tea; Little Ceci is still a baby, but I’d like to set up a trust for her now. She should be able to go to any school that Jessica wants her to attend and later, to whatever college and university she chooses and for as long as she wants to. Do you agree?”
“Yes I do.