One of my favourite family photos is actually one Mum took off the wall years ago. It’s her wedding photo with Dad. The year’s 1975, they’re in Hong Kong, she’s 21, he’s 27, and both of them are objectively, obscenely and outrageously attractive. If I were their friend, I would’ve secretly hated them both. Little do they know what they’re in for: enough children to constitute a litter; endless late-night fights; and a protracted divorce that will take five years to settle. It’s now a period of her life Mum now refers to as a “tragic love story to the max”.
For years, I didn’t think too much about their wedding. Most of us probably take our parents’ love story for granted. But writing a book about your family makes you reflect on the insanities of your parents’ life stories. Here they were, two 20-somethings – just kids – who’d only known each other for a few months, deciding to take a punt on starting a new life in a country one of them had never visited before. And in one of Australia’s most monocultural municipalities, no less.
I never grew up knowing our parents’ wedding anniversary. When I asked Mum about it recently, she text back to say there was a good reason. “I got two dates for you,” she said. “One is the official one; one is the SEX one.” (Thank you, Jenny.) Turns out, they got married in June at the Hong Kong registry, but only held their wedding reception in November with guests – which Mum now refers to as her “sex” wedding. I was confused. Why did they wait so many months between the registry and reception; the signature and sex? Mum replied:
“To be exact is five months because your dad scared that I might change my mind to marry him so he make sure he got me there... like put 'deposit' on an 'investment'."
Nice, Danny. Always the businessman.
Anyway, after they got married, Mum says the romance pretty much evaporated. From what I remember growing up, she was right. Dad was so busy with restaurant work and Mum was so busy raising the children singlehandedly that I never saw them celebrate their wedding anniversary once.
Discovering this stuff about my parents reminds me that even now, I still haven’t quite sussed out every detail about them, and I accept I get things wrong. It’s why I included that disclaimer in the finale of The Family Law, in the exchange between Benjamin and Jenny, after Benjamin recounts the story of their wedding:
Jenny: I liked your show. But it wasn't like that. At least, not for us...
Benjamin: Well it’s just inspired by real events. No one expects it to be completely accurate...
At 33, and it’s mildly horrifying to know that even though I’ve written a book about my family and a TV show inspired by them, I’m still learning things about them all that baffle and surprise me. But really, that’s every family member’s role in the end: to be embarrassingly ignorant of each other, but willing to learn.
The Family Law sneak peek: Ben tries to recreate Jenny and Danny's wedding night