a bag of sliced bread
Childhood memories. Making the most from not much. X-bread was a regular purchase at Safeway.

May 19, 2024 – Shopping with my mom as a child


It is an interesting day to write this blog post. Today is my dad’s birthday. My dad and I are somewhat in contact. Our relationship is somewhat strained or misunderstood. I am starting this blog series not in honour of him. It’s more of a coincidence. In many ways, this blog series might be in spite of him. Not sure how these stories will evolve, but I have decided to document my memories in this blog to record my perceptions of these experiences to sense-make my ethnic identity and experience as a second-generation Chinese Canadian woman. My story is not unique, but my story is unique to me. It’s almost like a 1000-piece puzzle, but I only have about 30-40 pieces. I’m hoping to collect more pieces overtime and return back this blog series as well as other posts to develop an autoethnography and possibly a book about my mom.

During the pandemic, I started a blog post series called #pandemicreflections. I made a commitment 4-years ago to write a weekly blog reflection during the pandemic. Under lock down, writing a weekly blog was something to do but also something to entertain myself. I thought that the pandemic would have ended in a month or two. I did not anticipate the pandemic to last one or two years. That said, I remained committed to that blog series and I opened up a second WordPress site because I was gradually losing access to this site. I wrote a lot about that too. Serendipity happens… and I’ve regained access to my website again. After the announcement declaring the end of the pandemic, I’ve meandered a bit in terms of what this blog (and my other blog) would be about. I continue to appreciate writing in a public way, but lately lacked a purpose. Today marks the beginning of the #ethnicidentity series.

I hated buying X-bread. (inside voice)

Going to Safeway was one of the places we went to grocery shop when I was a kid. If it was not Safeway, it was Overwaitea. People loved my twin brother. I remember going to the bakery section and folks behind the counter would always recognize my brother. He was a super cute kid… and folds loved him. I always remember folks giving my brother free doughnuts. I’m sure I got something too, but I just remembered that he would randomly receive things from strangers like was a superstar. Another thing I remembered, clearly, was my mom intentionally going to a basket in the bakery section where there were piles of bread. She was very specific about going to this basket and choosing a particular loaf of bread. I had no idea what she was looking for, but what I did notice was the “X” written by black felt pen over the small orange price tag, the square sticker, on the bag. The experience was pretty consistent. There was always an X on the bag. I realize as an adult that the X represented day-old bread. My mom bought stale bread. I never understood this as a child, but my mom was frugal. Our family had no money. We were immigrants.

Just edited above from “they” to “we.”

I am not an immigrant, but I was born into an immigrant family. I know that there are stories about how they immigrated and how they struggled to make ends meet. I plan to find those stories to get a better sense of how my parents (and sister) immigrated into Canada, moved to Prince Rupert, and did what they could to remain debt free, build a home, and put food on the table. Admittedly, I have much to unpack and understand. What I am reflecting on is X-bread. I’m not a huge fan of bread or sandwiches, in general. I often think that my hate for X-bread might be part of this reason why. I remember my dad making himself breakfast before he went to work, like a daily ritual. And, this bread was always toasted. Of course it was toasted. It was stale bread. He did not seem to mind the bread or having toast. He almost seemed appreciative to have this bread/toast and to participate in his morning ritual. Toast with peanut butter and honey seemed like the toast toppings of choice. He would make toast with a hot cup of Red Rose tea with milk and sugar. I remember him sipping on this tea at the dining room table with a plate of toast, two-pieces.

The image above is a bag of bread that I bought the other day from Cobbs. I make an effort not to by day-old bread and find the “most freshest” bread I can find. Going to Cobbs and getting a loaf of sour dough bread that’s cut right before my eyes is very poshy for me, but also something I feel like I deserve. Eating this bread feels special to me. I loved making a grilled cheese sandwich from this bread. It’s chewy, hot, and tasty. Having this grilled cheese sandwich this morning was so satisfying. I’m still not a fan of bread, nor do I like sandwiches generally, but a grilled cheese made from Cobbs bread felt fancy to me (even though I’m using expired margarine and cheese found in the fridge). We don’t realize that how much of our childhood experiences can impact how we perceive and do things. Just from writing this blog post, I am brought to many memories relating to food, my childhood, and the idea of poverty or working class. My parents worked very hard. My dad worked at the pulp mill. My mom worked in the canneries, food industry, and pulp mill cafeteria. And yes, she made sandwiches for a living (in most of her jobs). Coincidence? I’m guessing it’s not.

What messages or rules do we make for ourselves?

I will say, I have a greater appreciation for my parents the more I learn about my childhood and where I have come from. I am a product of an immigrant family who gave everything they had to ensure their children have a better life. I can attest, my siblings and I have very good lives and who we are today was 100% on our parents. I’m not sure why I have a greater appreciation for my mom than my dad. I’m sure that will be unraveled in future blog posts in this series. There are other posts I have written that will relate to this blog post series, but this post is the first post done with intentionality to document some of my memories. I anticipate that a structure will evolve over time with each post. I can see elements of the memory, my current behaviour, and how it made/makes me feel. The other connections relate to my experience as a second-generation Chinese Canadian to sense-making my ethnic identity and how it impacts my identity as an educator, researcher, and learner.