The Joy Luck Club Chapter 16, Jing-mei Woo, A Pair of Tickets
On a train in China, June feels that her mother was right: she is becoming Chinese, even though she never thought there was anything Chinese about her. June is going with her father to visit his aunt, who he hasn't seen since he was ten. Then, in Shanghai, June will meet her mother's other daughters. When a letter from them had finally come, Suyuan was already dead--a blood vessel had burst in her brain. At first, Lindo and the others wrote a letter telling the other sisters that Suyuan was coming. Then June convinced Lindo that this was cruel, so Lindo wrote another letter telling them Suyuan was dead. In the crowded streets of China, June feels like a foreigner. She is tall--her mother always told her that she might have gotten this from her mother's father, but they would never know, because everyone in the family was dead. Everyone died when a bomb fell during the war. Suddenly June's father's aunt comes out of the crowd. She recognizes him from a photograph he sent. June meets the rest of the family, having trouble remembering any words in Cantonese. They all go to a hotel, which June assumes must be very expensive but turns out to be cheap. The relatives are thrilled by how fancy it all is. They want to eat hamburgers in the hotel room. In the shower, June wonders how much of her mother stayed with those other daughters. Was she always thinking about them? Did she wish June was them? Later, June listens while her father talks with his aunt. He says that he never knew Suyuan was looking for her daughters her whole life. Her father tells her that her name, Jing-mei, means, "little sister, the essence of the others." June asks for the whole story of how her mother lost her other daughters. Her father tells her that though her mother hoped to trade her valuables for a ride to Chungking to meet her husband, no one was accepting rides. After walking for a long time, Suyuan realized she could not go on carrying the babies, so she left them by the side of the road and wrote a note, saying that if they were delivered to a certain address, the deliverer would be rewarded greatly. She got very sick with dysentery, and Canning met her in a hospital. She said to him, "Look at this face. Do you see my foolish hope?" Chapter 16, pg. 283 The babies, it turned out, were rescued by a pious couple who lived in a secret cave near Kweilin. Several years later, when the husband died, the wife told the girls about their real mother, and began searching for her. Meanwhile, Suyuan and Canning traveled around China, searching as well. Finally they went to America, and Canning thought Suyuan had finally left the memory of her daughters behind. Years later, when Suyuan began to say that they had to go back to China before it was too late, he thought she meant she just wanted to visit, so he told her it was too late already. He thinks the idea that her daughters might have been dead killed Suyuan. Meanwhile, one of Suyuan's school friends recognized the grown-up sisters while shopping.
When June leaves her father's family at the airport, she thinks about good-byes, permanent and temporary. Hours later in Shanghai, June gets off the plane in a trance, without even knowing how she is moving. She sees a double image of her mother, then realizes she is seeing the twin daughters. "And now I also see what part of me is Chinese. It is so obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood." Chapter 16, pg. 288 Looking again, June thinks that they do not look like her mother--and yet, in some way, they do. The women hug and cry, feeling their mother's presence. They take a Polaroid photograph and, watching it develop, see that together, they all look like Suyuan.