After all these years of hiding it, who knew it would be her guilty pleasure that would prove so useful.
It had been a long day, a tiring day. The kind of day that would not be long or tiring if she didn’t have the frustration of dealing with her family.
She’d tried to relax by meeting friends for coffee but they’d spent the time complaining about their children and grandchildren in the way that parents and grandparents did when they were actually bragging.
The second Mrs Park’s daughter had been promoted and was working so hard and so successfully as a lawyer that she was never home. Thin Mrs Yuen’s son expected her to be on call to look after her adorable brilliant twin grandchildren who were so precociously and exuberantly gifted they ran her ragged.
Third Mrs Park’s daughter was sleeping on the streets as part of an extended CEO sleep out. (On the streets! Can you imagine?!) Fat Mrs Yuen’s daughter was volunteering with Médecins Sans Frontières in the most dangerous places without any concern for her (clearly very proud) mother’s feelings.
Her friend Cynthia who, through a complicated family history of marriages was a Chinese woman who’d somehow gained the last name MacDonald – while her cousin was a red-haired, green-eyed woman with the last name Chen – was complaining that her perfect son was throwing away his PhD by marrying the first daughter of a corporate family and accepting a management position in their property development dynasty.
As for her? The first Mrs Park? The doyenne of the group? The First Lady of this elite circle? The owner of the nationwide Tran Park Whitegoods and Electrical? The mother of the CEO of Park Holdings; the umbrella company that housed no less than five subsidiary companies?
Her family complaints were real and so she felt she couldn’t share them at all.
She simply sipped her soy flat white and nodded sympathetically; flinching inwardly with every dot point being added to the list of family achievements strategically couched as embarrassments.
Her own children… how had she let this happen?
Where did it all go so wrong?
Mrs Park had had a moment of rebellion that morning. She had waved away her driver and insisted on taking the bus to the cafe. The look of surprise, judgemental concern and slight contempt on the faces of her friends did not chasten her. If anything it had emboldened her.
“You’re so good,” they gushed but when they got home they’d be texting each other rumours of her possible financial troubles. She wondered how long it would be before their WhatsApp group chat was cloned, with one noticeable absence.
Let them. Her family could buy all of theirs twice over.
When she came to this country a bus pass was all she could afford. Food other than rice and an egg was a luxury. Vegetables were grown in a patch outside; mangos and avocados on a tree by their back fence. Money was merely a path to security for herself and her family. Anything else was obscene. Money denoted nothing except the luck of stability, time and circumstance. It could be washed away in a heartbeat through no fault of your own and come to you again through no skill of your own. Why couldn’t her children see that? How did she fail to pass this down? Did they think it was only the rich who worked hard?
When she finally got home, she was forced to spend some time counselling the servants. That was really the last straw. These were women doing their best to work and support their families. Just because they cleaned their toilets didn’t mean they deserved to be treated as less than people. Hell, she’d cleaned the odd toilet in her life too.
She helped to organise the next day’s menu and gave the youngest girl – just 23 and supporting a baby by herself – two days paid leave. The child couldn’t afford to quit no matter what happened in that house and her son must have known that (didn’t he?). She wondered when the larrikin nature he’d acquired from their new home country had turned into cruelty. Maybe it was already too late?
She shook her head of her problems and sent all the staff home to their families early. They deserved it.
Besides, it was time.
Her dramas were on.