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in law

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

To me, in terms of IQ, there are generally two types of people in the world. One is typical (like me), the other is smart or extremely smart (like my husband). Yet there is a third kind who are supremely intelligent like Einstein or Dr. Shoucheng Zhang.
Besides Dr. Zhang’s intelligence, however, I will most admire his love for life and his affection for his family.

I have had the pleasure to know the Zhang family through my daughter Ruth’s marriage to Brian. In 2015, at our children’s commencement ceremony from Harvard, our two families dined at a nearby Chinese restaurant. After several courses, Dr. Zhang’s wife Barbara thought we might run out of food, so she ordered some more dishes. (Brian had told me many tales about his mom’s hospitality)

Toward the end, Barbara whispered to me: “Oh, looks like we are going to have a lot of leftover. Shoucheng is not going to be happy. He does not like to waste.” Indeed, Dr. Zhang felt so bad that we couldn’t take the leftovers with us since we both had a long way home. Though he came from an affluent family and left China at age 15, Dr. Zhang still preserved the Chinese virtue of frugality.
After Brian and Ruth (we call them Bruth) flew into the Hiller Aviation Museum for their wedding reception on August 20, 2016, I was so busy taking pictures and did not even get to see what hors d'oeuvres were being served nor taste the wedding wine. I could not remember much details of what happened that night, but was pretty impressed on how wild Shoucheng (SC) and Barbara danced together. I particularly remember SC wearing his cool sunglasses, it was a blast!

One year later, our families held two post-wedding celebrations, first in Taipei and then in Shanghai. At the Shanghai reception (September 16, 2017), held at the bank of the Huang-Pu River, SC asked Barbara to speak for the family. Barbara was adamant: “Of course you have to speak!” Not having prepared anything, SC still gave an impressive impromptu speech. Below is the part that I remember.

“As newlyweds, Brian and Ruth were two love birds who cannot stop kissing each other. I often throw some challenging questions for them to answer in order to separate them. However, Ruth always solved it quickly and then resume their kissing again!”
I have fond memories of a vacation our families took together in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This was one of Barbara and SC’s favorite places in the world, and we were fortunate to be invited.
One night, Barbara and SC took us to one of their favorite restaurants. We walked there and they held hands all the time. At the restaurant and also on the street, there were many street artists’ and musicians’ performances. Barbara insisted on tipping each one of them. When she ran out of the restaurant to tip another artist, I was conversing with SC and commented that Barbara really has a big heart. SC agreed: “Yeah, she is one of a kind!”

During dinner, they exchanged their affection constantly and openly, though in a more conservative manner than Bruth. After dinner, we just strolled on the marina, visited a movie theater at a seaside mall and took pictures in front of a giant Christmas tree. So relaxing!

All this time, SC held Barbara’s hands tightly. In Taiwan, a husband calls his wife Can-Chieu (牽手). It means “the one I hold hands with”. It's not uncommon for husbands holding their new wives’ hands, however, they had been married for over 30 years. I was so envious of these two “Eternal Love Birds”!

Barbara and SC brought Chinese ink and brush to practice their Chinese paintings and calligraphy. When they returned to California, they left some of their beautiful calligraphy pieces with us, which we will forever cherish.

By Ruth’s mom
April 30, 2019

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