Untitled from david bellel on Vimeo.
The original article from the nytimes
Below, an oral history of the Lee family of Forsyth Street. (Interviews have been edited and condensed.)
The Traffic Cop
MAY WONG LEE, 49
With a blond streak in her black hair, multiple ear piercings and the word “Grace” tattooed on her neck, May is the loudest in the family and often the center of attention.
She met Ben, her husband, who is from a large Cuban-Chinese immigrant family, at their evangelical church when they were teenagers. They had three boys — Noah, 17, Jonah, 15, and Elijah, 10 — and decided to adopt a girl. When they brought Mebrat home, in 2007, they thought she was 3, but it turned out she was a malnourished 6. Ben, 47, is one of the least-talkative members of the household. A Federal Express driver, he is out of the house from 7 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., leaving May to be the disciplinarian and organizer.
May dropped out of law school after Jonah was born early and doctors told her his weak lungs made him susceptible to sudden infant death syndrome. She later went back to school to add an administrator’s certificate to her master’s in education.
As assistant principal at P.S. 42, which she, Warren and Ben all attended a generation ago, May spends her days squelching arguments and solving problems (and peeking in on Mebrat, who is in fourth grade there). At home, her role is similar.
“I can’t stay on top of anything anymore. I just give this image that I’m organized, but I’m so unorganized. As long as I can get up and brush my teeth and get out of the house on time, I’m very happy. Today, this morning, I brushed my teeth with my face wash. Ben thought it was the funniest thing.
“We have a lot of stresses, but with some things, being with three separate households, you sort of have to let it roll. Let’s say if I’m a little upset about something, I’ll wait it out and think about it and is it worth it to mention.
“I mean we sort of chose to live this way, so Warren and I, we know we have to compromise. I think if we were all in our 20s and starting out, it would be rough. We’re much older. We waited a bit to have kids. I think that’s a big help.
“We have our arguments, and it gets pretty loud.
“Jen will pretty much go along with whatever Warren decides. He more calls the shots.
“I call the shots because Ben couldn’t care less. He totally leaves it up to me.
“That’s why this works out, because Jen and Ben are very easygoing. A lot of things don’t faze them.
“Our biggest issue was my boys. They would use the fourth floor and leave it a mess. And it got to the point where, you know, I was really mad with my boys. But I was also a little upset because I’m, like, you know, ‘You don’t have teenagers. Wait till you have teenagers.’ So I sort of nipped it in the bud, I said, ‘You can’t use it until you prove to me you’re responsible to take care of upstairs.’
“My boys are just as happy in the back. And I can ignore the noise as long as they’re not running and thumping. I keep telling them they have to be respectful because Gung Gung’s downstairs.”......