“Chao” (pronounced “chow”) is my maiden name and two of my daughters have incorporated it as their middle name as well. The Chao family (my father’s side) were renowned for their adventurousness, drive and determination. They made names for themselves in philosophy and religion (my grandfather as Dean of Religion at Yenching (Peking) University,); science (my Dad, an astrogeologist who trained astronauts to retrieve moon rocks during the Apollo moon shots) and literature (my Aunt who translated poems by T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman from English into Mandarin.) That’s why we took up the name “Chao” and turned it into “Chao-Girls” as a way of characterizing and celebrating that standard of grit and accomplishment. We have a couple of granddaughters who are “Chao-Girls” too. One is five and lives in Minneapolis; the other is a sophomore at Johns Hopkins (yeah!)
The (grown) girls all get along pretty well now – something that wasn’t always the case while they were growing up. We lived in a rambling Victorian house in Lexington, a suburb of Boston where the girls went to school. Our house was next to the East Lexington firehouse, which was a fortunate thing I discovered one day when the lawnmower had burst into flames; and another time when a chicken had been placed inside the oven to roast without a pan underneath!
Things were not always easy but they weren’t always that hard either. A bountiful raspberry harvest meant that boxes of extra raspberries were hawked on the red Radio Flyer wagon pulled up and down our street, Locust Avenue. Meals were eaten outside on the back deck shaded by Wisteria vines dripping with tendrils of pale blue flowers. On Patriots’ Day, the town parade could be seen from our 2nd floor bedroom window. Sour cream doughnuts dipped in sugar were a tradition for watching the festivities from our house.
We lived for twenty-two years in that house and the girls got a good enough education to go on to stellar colleges afterwards. They still mention some shenanigans that went on with various babysitters when their parents were at work. I guess we’ll never know everything that we all went through, growing up. And maybe we won’t get around to telling each other our stories for awhile.
But life is long (my second marriage is going on twenty years next year!) and who knows what miracles might still occur?