By Erin Siu
Lucy An didn’t feel like she belonged in her white, Victorian house on 35th Street and Geary Boulevard, San Francisco. She had just arrived from Taiwan to live with her father, a tall, balding man whom she also felt unsure about. The last time she had seen her father was when she was two years old, and Lucy had no recollection of his face. Lucy’s mother came with her, bringing only one suitcase for the both of them. Her mother dragged the brown baggage up the front steps and looked inside the house, trying to locate something—or someone. Her eyes stopped when she spotted Lucy’s grandmother, who was sitting quietly on a chair in the living room, watching them. She wore a chain of pearls around her neck, and her lips were painted the color of cherries. That night, Grandmother An gave Lucy her American name.
In Taiwan, everyone knew Lucy as An Chu Ning. Before Lucy was born, her mother spent months trying to think of the perfect name for her daughter. She settled on Chu Ning, a name describing dew drops before they fall from the tip of a leaf.
“I want my grandchild to have a beautiful American name,” Lucy’s grandmother told Lucy’s father and mother during dinner. Her grandmother spoke as though Lucy wasn’t sitting in the same room, listening to them talk about her. Lucy’s father coughed and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, but made no response to Grandmother An’s comment. Lucy’s mother picked at her food with a fork. Her grandmother continued speaking, “She will succeed in life with an American name.”