Janet Tang was one of six children, and the third of four daughters. In Hong Kong in 1955, her mother promised the eldest daughter, aged 20, as a wife to Golden Lang, a 20-year-old man in Canada. Told her fate, the eldest daughter, who already had a boyfriend in Hong Kong, outright refused to be married off to live abroad.
The two would-be mothers-in-law, one in Hong Kong and one in Canada, wanted to honour their marriage deal. They agreed to substitute the second-eldest. Aged 18, this daughter proved to be even more stubborn than the first. Finally, the Tangs offered their third-born, giving her no say in the matter. Janet, aged 16, loved studying and above all, was crushed to have to quit high school to be married.
Golden Lang flew from Ottawa to Hong Kong. Not quite 21, the legal marrying age in Hong Hong, he too had to provide written parental consent. The couple’s wedding was at the city hall marriage registry bureau.
In packing for her new life in Canada, Janet took every Chinese textbook and novel she owned.
From Ottawa, the young newlyweds drove an hour west to the farming village of Carp, where, together with his parents, Golden owned and operated the Golden Café and Gas Bar.
Used to her life in the cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong, where her family had a taxi business and enjoyed household servants, Janet found it difficult to adjust to the rural setting and conservative attitudes of the village of Carp. As well, she found her in-laws’ thinking to be steeped in old China and far removed from the modernity of someone like her, born and raised in Hong Kong.
Copyright © 2012 Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre and Denise Chong