One claim is that children can never really know there parents. This claim is supported by all of the mother's former lives in China. As an example, consider the story of Ying-Ying St. Clair, whose childhood wish, aspiring to something other than the rigid role she was born to, is never realized. Ying-Ying "wants to be found." Despite her outward appearance, Ying-Ying remembers the time as a child when she flagrantly disobeyed her parents and nearly lost her life. She is afraid of what she perceives as her true nature, which she feels is dangerous. Ying-Ying says, "my daughter does not hear l these years I kept my true nature hidden, running along like a small shadow so nobody could catch me. And because I moved so secretly now my daughter does not see me."
Indeed, Lena has little understanding of her mother. She dismisses her fears as "Chinese nonsense" and her concerns for her marriage and home as intrusive. Lena has no idea of her mother's childhood dreams of the "moon lady" or her terrible ordeal on the party boat.