♪♪ ♪♪ [ Birds chirping ] -Oh, my goodness.
They have upgraded.
I came here for grade one, two, three, I think.
This is surreal.
It's -- Well, mind you, so much has changed.
I'm trying to look for the very essence of it that reminds me of what it was like.
-So, you haven't been back here in like a million years.
I was gone for 43 years.
[ Both laugh ] [ Piano playing ] -I sometimes forget that my mom was once a child, too, with dreams of living in a castle and eating nothing but ice cream and cake for dinner.
♪♪ Growing up, I didn't understand why my mom rarely hugged or kissed me as a kid, and why "I love you" was not in her vocabulary.
As I got older, I realized that there was a reason for why I felt like a piece of her was missing.
♪♪ My mom was born in Taiwan on March 4, 1960.
She has very little memory of her childhood.
She couldn't tell me what her favorite bedtime stories were or if her parents ever sang her a lullaby.
-[ Humming ] -All she remembers is that when she was 5 years old, she was suddenly separated from her family, never to see them again.
And she never understood why.
[ Piano continues playing ] ♪♪ -[ Continues humming ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -You know what?
For one reason, when I have a dinner, number one, I hate people don't have enough food to eat.
Number two, yes, I would always love to have more people to be here.
And yes, indeed, I would love -- -You want to make sure everybody's taken care of.
-Ask my mom.
-Finish that thought.
-[ Crying ] Yes, I love to have my family here.
-Oh, God, look what alcohol and bad conversation does.
----- ------ I hope this isn't recording the volume.
-Tiffany, stop it.
-[ Crying ] -Ronnie.
-[ Crying ] Tiff, stop it.
[ Indistinct conversations ] -When my mom first told me that my grandmother, Popo, was not her biological mother, I finally got a glimpse of what might have been missing from her life.
My mom never asked Popo about her birth family.
She couldn't bear the guilt of possibly offending the only person who raised her all these years.
But how could my mom live without knowing the truth about such an important part of her past?
I knew I needed to do something.
♪♪ If we get -- if we are so lucky to find either your mom, your dad, even your sister, what would be your number-one, like, questioning that you would like to know?
-I guess answering some questions that I've always had.
-Like... why -- why didn't they keep us, you know?
Why was I sent away?
I know you don't think I'm going to find them and stuff like that, because you're being pessimistic.
-No, no, no, no, no.
-But that's fine.
-It's not that.
You -- First of all, Tiff, you're going to have, first of all, the -- the foremost difficulty, which is a language barrier.
-But I'm trying, no?
I'm going to start by going to City Hall.
You think they really care?
-Look, I'm determined to find them.
♪♪ Minding your own business is a habit of traditional Chinese families and was always so frustrating to me.
It was stifling to watch my mom hold back on saying what was really on her mind and keep silent for the sake of not causing trouble.
This made me promise myself that I would never be like that.
♪♪ It's totally overwhelming.
Like, this is a place, like, where my mom grew up, and I am here.
The next generation of her is riding a bus to go and... seek her parents and try to make this work.
♪♪ So, in case I do meet her parents, which, that's my goal -- It starts with that.
This is her when she first came into Canada, starting.
And then this is us a little bit older, all three kids.
♪♪ My mom was not optimistic about my search.
No one was.
This was the furthest I'd ever been away from home, and all I had with me were two names on a napkin that I couldn't read and a pocket translator that didn't work.
But I was stubborn and determined to prove everyone wrong.
♪♪ Mom, it's Tiff.
[ Chuckles ] I'm trying to call you.
It's like 7:00 in the morning in Taiwan.
I just want to tell you everything is okay and that the city is nuts here.
It's completely, like, I don't know.
I'm learning how to speak Chinese, though.
You'd be so proud.
[ Speaking Mandarin Chinese ] Hi, there.
I have -- I just have their names.
And I know they're from Taipei.
I love how everyone knows now.
[ Telephones ringing ] -You have been so lucky.
[ Chuckles ] [ Crying ] I found your mom and your dad's address.
I know where they live exactly.
I know -- And I got the exact same address and -- No, I'm not in the hospital.
Mom, I'm trying to -- I got your -- No, I got your mom and your dad's address, and I'm going to go see them tomorrow, yeah.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ I can see that we're slowly coming to our place.
I can't breathe.
[ Speaks Mandarin Chinese ] [ Elevator bell dings ] Okay.
How do I look?
I look good?
Button up a little bit?
I should have took my piercing out.
This...freaks people out.
-[ Speaks indistinctly ] -No, I can't.
My hands are dirty.
[ Door opens ] -[ Crying ] -[ Laughing ] -[ Crying ] [ Crying ] [ Indistinct conversations ] [ Laughter ] ♪♪ My mother's never seen a picture of herself as a baby in her whole entire life.
This is her -- This is -- This is her.
Never seen a picture of her as a child.
Here's her family photo.
♪♪ ♪♪ The moment I found my mom's birth mother, there was an instant familiarity.
Suddenly, I was no longer in a foreign place.
I'd found another home with this woman I just met.
♪♪ One afternoon, she tells me that it has been difficult for her to sleep since meeting me, because she keeps thinking about the past.
I couldn't help but feel like I had just opened up a Pandora's box.
♪♪ [ Indistinct conversations ] So, Mom, you're back in Taipei.
How does it feel?
I can't believe it.
I, uh -- [ Sighs ] Oh, my God.
That's my sister.
Did you know that?
-[ Speaks Mandarin Chinese ] [ All speak Mandarin Chinese ] -[ Sobbing ] [ Sobbing ] -How was it, seeing your mom for the first time?
-[ Sighs ] I don't know.
Actually, it was funny.
When I finally... ...held her, like, she was hugging me, and she hugged me so hard, and I hugged her right back.
The embrace was something that I had -- [ Sighs ] ...had been longing for for so, so many years.
Especially when I was -- whenever I was depressed, whenever I was upset, I always wished that my mother would be there.
Someone who could be there to comfort me.
♪♪ -[ Humming ] ♪♪ -Stop.
♪♪ -[ Speaking Mandarin Chinese in distance ] ♪♪ -[ Continues humming ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -As her mother revealed the reason for their separation, I watched my mom transform back to her 5-year-old self.
♪♪ In 1965, my mom's parents were already divorced.
Her father was a gambler.
He had taken all the kids and threatened to kill them if their mother didn't give him money.
So she called the police, which resulted in him being locked in a jail cell.
But my mom and her siblings were in there, too.
Once they were released, her father sold the kids, one by one, to pay off his gambling debt.
♪♪ For months, my grandmother searched everywhere for her kids and was able to buy all her children back, except for one -- my mom.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ I didn't ask my mom if it would have been better to not know this truth, because deep down inside, I knew the answer.
♪♪ -[ Speaking Mandarin Chinese ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Bell dings ] ♪♪ After reuniting my mom with her mother, they had a few more visits, always thinking that there would be more time.
♪♪ Before my grandmother's stroke, my mom finally asked her, "Why was I the only one you didn't buy back?"
Because of martial law, 1960s Taiwan was not an easy time for women.
Fewer jobs were available, especially for those who didn't have any education.
My grandmother borrowed and sold whatever she had of value to purchase her children back.
And after months of searching, she did find my mom.
♪♪ She watched my mom walk to school with Popo, neatly dressed in the school uniform, with shiny black shoes on her feet.
She realized that Popo could provide a better life for my mom.
For the next few years, she would just silently watch my mom grow up through the playground fence.
-I can't imagine if I had to do that.
I just close my eyes and try to imagine if I was to send any one of you away and not being able to -- to be with you, to see you, or even have to go through what she had to do to, like, sneak up, you know, somewhere, hiding in schoolyard and peeking through fences.
It must be heartbreaking, just -- But whatever little comfort she could get out of seeing me, I guess it helped.
It's unfortunate, whatever happen now.
[ Sniffles ] [ Piano playing ] -My grandmother's sacrifice was not in vain.
Popo was able to provide for my mom.
She was a widow with two grown children that had already left home.
Popo and my mom didn't have a maternal relationship, but they had each other.
And when my mom had children of her own, we had a grandmother that fussed over trivial things like us not wearing enough clothes in the winter or eating enough at dinner, the unspoken stuff that meant, "You matter to me."
-[ Singing softly in Mandarin Chinese ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Singing echoing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -[ Speaking Mandarin Chinese ] -Happy New Year.
-[ Speaking Mandarin Chinese ] -[ Wheezing ] [ Both laugh ] -[ Speaking Mandarin Chinese ] -Good luck, from my sister.
-[ Laughs ] -[ Singing in Mandarin Chinese ] ♪♪ ♪♪ -She has the same eyebrow raise as you do.
♪♪ ♪♪ -[ Singing in Mandarin Chinese ] ♪♪ -[ Groaning ] [ Continues groaning ] -Okay, shh.
[ Vocalizing ] -[ Continues groaning ] -[ Singing in Mandarin Chinese ] -[ Singing in Mandarin Chinese ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -I know you guys always ask how come I don't hug or kiss you guys as much.
How do you do that when you never experienced that yourself?
♪♪ But you do know that I love you guys very much.
[ Both continue singing in Mandarin Chinese ] [ Both laugh ] Okay, go on.
[ Air popping ] -I know.
[ Both laugh ] [ Both continue singing in Mandarin Chinese ] ♪♪ I may have started out looking for my grandmother, but in the end, I also found my mom.
-[ Singing in Mandarin ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪