“The next day, when I saw Teming, she tried to avoid me. I finally cornered her and we had a discussion.”
I met Teming in January, 1981, when we were graduate students at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Teming was there on a Rotary Scholarship to get a master’s degree in education. I was there because Ohio University gave free tuition waivers to returned Peace Corps Volunteers to study in their International Affairs Program.
The first time I saw Teming was in the laundry room of our co-ed dorm. I was on crutches, having slipped on the ice a few nights before. I had just returned from five years in Southeast Asia, first with the Peace Corps in Thailand and later as a refugee worker in Indonesia. As a result of having spent my formative years in Asia, I had developed a thing for Asian women, and I thought Teming was cute.
I approached and asked, “Excuse me, but are you from Thailand?” (That was my opening line with every Asian girl I met at OU.) She said she was from Taiwan. I asked her name and she answered “Teresa”, which was the name she had taken for English Class back in Taiwan. (The original name she had taken was Gladys.) I asked her what her real name was. She told me I wouldn’t be able to pronounce it. I said. “Try me.” She said, “Teming.” Since Thai was also a tonal language with unaspirated “T” sounds, I was able to repeat it properly. “Teming,” I said. “That’s right,” she said, surprised, and a little impressed, that I had pronounced it correctly.
In the days that followed, I would see Teming around the dorm. She was always in a hurry it seemed, talking and laughing, usually loudly, with her friends in Chinese. I remember thinking she had a great laugh. Teming was very active with the Chinese Christian groups on campus. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be into that, but Teming really seemed to genuinely enjoy Christianity and had a childlike enthusiasm for it which I found attractive.
I would often see her carrying an armful of bibles or hymnals. I remember following her into the piano room at the dorm. She was practicing singing hymns in Mandarin. She didn’t see me come in so I just sat there listening to her sing. When she finished I clapped and she was startled, but I could tell she was glad to see me.
I continued to watch out for Teming around the dorm and around the campus. On Valentine’s Day, an undergraduate asked me if I wanted to buy a rose for my girlfriend. I told her I didn’t have one yet. Then I pointed out Teming who was sitting in the TV room and paid the girl to bring it to her. I sent it anonymously, but wrote the card in Thai. Teming came up to me and asked if I had sent it. I told her I didn’t, but she knew I was lying.
Teming and I continued to bump into each other…accidentally on purpose for the next several weeks. Then one night, it was the day President Regan was shot, I saw Teming on her way back to her room. I started talking to her and walked her back to her room. We talked for a while and then I kissed her good night and then I left.
The next day, when I saw Teming, she tried to avoid me. I finally cornered her and we had a discussion. Then we made a date for breakfast at Bob’s Big Boy after she took me to her church. Athens Bible Church with Pastor Bill Hickson. He was a nice guy, but a bit on the fundamentalist side. The service was long and did he go on and on! The following Sunday, we went to the Catholic Church, again followed by breakfast at Bob’s Big Boy. I asked Teming what she thought about the service.
She said, “The message was so short.” “I know,” I said smiling. “That’s one of the best things about a Catholic service. You’re in and out within an hour.” At least we agreed on the breakfast, so we continued to date.
Teming stayed on at Ohio U for an extra year to get a second master’s degree in computers. We finished our degrees in the summer of 1982. I was thirty at the time and wanted to get married, but Teming, who was 24, was more cautious. She took a teaching job at Westfield State College in Westfield, Massachusetts. I returned to Long Island, and we saw each other frequently at weekends.
On July 12, 1986, Teming and I were married in Westfield at Central Baptist Church, the church of which Teming was a member. My uncle, Father Harry McCormack, a Catholic priest, got a dispensation of form and place to deliver the vows. The pastor of Central Baptist, Rev. Richard Painchaud delivered the homily. We had the Central Baptist Choir and a Chinese choir of grad students from U. Mass. at Amherst. Teming’s pastor from Taiwan was in the US at the time, so he gave one of the readings. My family came up from Long Island, and Teming’s parents flew in from Taiwan. Teming’s sister Tuhui, who lived in Holden MA, was the matron of honor.
We had an old fashioned reception at the Elks Club with my friend from grade school acting as MC, providing the music and vocals (No DJ’s). We had the Irish, the Italians, the WASPS and the Chinese, dancing the tarantella, the hora, and the hokey-pokey. Teming wore her white bridal gown from the church at the beginning of the reception and then changed to the traditional red gowns. I can honestly say it was the best wedding I’ve ever been to.