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Dumplings and Layoffs

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When I was a kid, my family made a lot of dumplings -- sometimes once a week. Mom and dad were master dumpling makers. I loved standing on my tip toes, peering over the counter while my dad rolled chunks of dough into perfectly uniform discs. He piled the dumpling skins onto trays and laughed as my sister and I raced them across the kitchen to my mom, who filled and pleated them into doughy white clams. To date, this is the only activity my family did together. It marked the golden age of my childhood. The warm smell of scallions wafted through our house, and I never imagined that a home should smell any other way.

A few years ago while dad and I were driving home from the store, I asked him, "Why don't we make dumplings anymore? I always had so much fun." His eyes teared up and he told me that we only made dumplings when he got laid off. It was the only way to feed a family of four on seven dollars a week. But I never caught on. To me, dumpling Sundays were like other families' game nights. Wasn't this what families did together?

I never talked to my parents about dumplings again, but I think about that conversation a lot. It's scary enough to think about being jobless while I'm young and single. I can't imagine how much harder it'd be to have dependents. I can't imagine explaining what "laid off" means to a six-year-old, and I don't know what it's like to tell a nine-year-old she can't take violin lessons anymore.  

But I do know one thing. Even in this bad economy, it's still possible to be good to your loved ones. My parents were good parents, even though they couldn't attend every game or fulfill every birthday wish. They were good parents because they made the most of hard times and turned them into good memories. And that's something we can all do, no matter how bad things get.

With a Perspective, I'm Victoria Chao.


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