This is the first time my husband, Max, will be spending Christmas with my family — the first time in all 11 years of our relationship.
It’s a huge milestone because ever since I moved to New York City when I was 18, I’ve consistently gone back to my home in Houston, Texas every year.
Christmas has always been the biggest holiday we celebrate in our family. My dad always sets up the Christmas tree so it’s ready by the time we get home for the holidays. We go to the outlets every year before Christmas and we’ll each have a $200-limit gift grab, which become the presents that end up under the tree.
Max is also Asian-American and a born-and-bred New Yorker, and the one thing I’m most excited about is to break the stereotypes he has of Texas. Stereotypes of us being closed-minded, living among in a predominantly white community without Asian food and Asian supermarkets. I think he assumes I’m from a Long Island-esque suburbia.
He doesn’t realize that I did grow up in a very Asian community in Texas — a place called Sugarland. While that comes with all the benefits of being raised around my community, I was raised very traditionally and my parents were pretty closed off to other people. If I wanted to have a friend over, there would be a lot of planning ahead, including telling my parents all about who this person was.
Meanwhile, Max’s parents are quite the opposite. They were so open and not like the typical Asian parents I was used to. He brought me to his house the fifth time we went out, and I spent the night at his parents’ place. They didn’t ask any questions, and I didn’t feel embarrassed. They didn’t judge or anything.
With his family, it’s all very casual. They were accepting of me early on, and now we’re married, it doesn’t feel any different than before because I’ve always felt welcome. They’re also very generous — for Chinese New Year, his mom will always cook an amazing meal.
It’s interesting how these ideals play a role in our household now. When we have friends over, I’ll be surprised when Max springs it on me, but he’ll respond, “I just found out too.”
At the same time, Max’s experience growing up in the city shows me the benefit of starting our family in a traditional community like the one I grew up in. In New York, it’s so much more stressful. You sign up for preschools before your kid is even born. There’s waiting lists everywhere. If you want to go to a good high school, you’ll have to test into one. Max travelled hours to get to his high school and bullying seems like a bigger problem than in the suburbs. It also seemed really competitive, which makes it hard for the parent and the kids.
When I think about starting our own family, I’d like to combine the community of where I grew up with the openness Max and his family has shown me.
I hope this Christmas, he’ll fall in love with my community too.