The very first poncho I had was back at the age of around four. It was a red poncho which featured a fringe hem and olive green, cream and dark red Aztec native print. Back then my parents had been divorced for about a year; so this red creation would have been chosen by my beloved grandmother as she loved dressing me in red or red related outfits. In a small town like Yilan City in Taiwan where I grew up, divorce was rarely seen in the ’70s, therefore my family was the attention centre in our quiet neighbourhood.
Despite being the talk of the town, almost every weekend, my dear father would put me on the kid’s rear bamboo baby seat of his bicycle and took me for a joyride. 兜風 as we call it in Chinese. It’s our father-daughter bonding time. No matter how far or how short the ride was; he always, without fail, wrapped our journey at the same street dessert stall. And my baba (爸爸, father in Mandarin) always ordered me a bowl of Sweet Red Bean Soup (紅豆湯). As for himself, always a bowl of Sweet Peanut Soup (花生湯). The redness and the cloudiness of my soup and the white, creaminess of his dessert was a colour contrast that has lived vividly in my memory until this very day.
Both my granny and my dad were teachers. On this particular sunny weekend, another riding-around-town with baba. My nainai (奶奶, paternal-grandmother in Mandarin) dressed me up in this poncho, paring it with burgundy pants and sapphire blue shoes. She tied my hair into unbraided twin bunches. It was an outing on Daddy’s bike ride to his school and a photo day capturing baobao (寶寶, precious baby in Mandarin. My baby nickname.) growing up. That was a fun day to remember, blue sky white clouds… my eyes were squinting due to the sun, or maybe I was making funny faces to attract more attention from Dad! Afterwards we headed to the usual dessert stall; picked the same tin table and enjoyed our sweet treats together as we always did.
When I turned five, my father remarried. Things changed that year and no more bicycle rides for us. Soon my dad and his new bride moved to Tainan where my stepmother’s hometown was. Then they welcomed the birth of their son. Before my half-brother could walk, my dad got a scholarship to the Texas A&M University and he decided to pursue his Master’s Degree in the United States. Who knew, 12 years later I would be sponsored by my mother to migrant to Australia. Years later, nainai sold her townhouse and moved in to our aunty and uncle’s. For the longest time it seemed the three of us, nainai, baba and baobao were holding on so tightly to each other and facing the world; then fate had pulled us apart, further and further…
I never had a second poncho. Well until one day I spotted this knitted number in Paris’ Printemps department store. Even though it’s a totally different design from the Mexican/American Indian type I once owned; the colour red ‘had me at hello’. ‘Nainai would definitely approve it if she was here.’ I thought. So I tried it on. Immediately, I liked the quirky look and the fact that it’s not the classic, fringed-and-triangular style. I smiled while looking at the reflection from the change room’s mirror. That year, the 9th year since my beloved grandmother’s passing, I bought myself a red poncho.
Kent had showed me this narrow pedestrian shortcut connecting Sydney’s Sydenham station and his place in Marrickville. At the time I didn’t put too much thought into this shoot. Or perhaps I did, subconsciously. My braided pigtails, the bicycle… ‘Did I try to channel that little girl in a red poncho?’ Although no tall skinny palm trees nor rounded concrete water lily pond, this is Sydenham in Sydney not Yilan in the ’70s after all. The colourful graffiti did somehow represent a child’s fantasy.
When I was a teenager, during a visit to my father, I mentioned to him that how much I miss our fun rides on his bicycle and that dessert stall he used to take me to. Baba was very surprised to hear that I still remembered my Sweet Red Bean Soup after all these years! I’m very glad that I told him that, in fact, I wish we had shared more conversations like this. However, due to several family issues, we remained very distant for decades. In about six months time from now, it will mark the 10th anniversary since his passing; I want to dedicate this story to my dearest father. Things we had or had not said to each other seem no longer important. Our time together, so short yet so sweet, like my Red Bean Soup; like those bicycle rides that gave us so much joy and laughter… runs endlessly in my most profound memories.
Outfit Of The Day
Galeries Lafayette beret
Comptoir des Cotonniers top
Comptoir des Cotonniers poncho
Keelung Night Market coral & onyx ring (right hand)
Keelung Night Market coral ring (left hand)
Urban Soul ankle boots