Category: past

i walked through chinatown today,
lower lower chinatown,
across columbus park, and onward even further to seward park

i tried to contain my nostalgia as i stood behind the excited men watching and discussing heated games of chinese chess, thinking about the groaning afternoons that i spent in extracurricular chinese chess classes after obligatory chinese school. the chess games were set to a soundtrack of the straining, gasping lilt of the erhu filtered through shouts from the soccer fields.

in true Amelie fashion, I sank fingers into and through the bins of watermelon seeds, thinking of all the times we sat at the kitchen table cracking our molars on opening those seeds to get the tiny morsel of flesh inside.

i walked slowly through the bakeries, inspecting the sweet glutinous rice treats. i felt heartsick about the Mandarin language as i listened to toddlers point out in bird-like voices the “tu shu guan” (library) to their smiling and proud mothers. heartsick because our children may never experience as close of a link to their “heritage” and language as we did, as the sons and daughters of immigrants.

i thought about my grandmother’s wrinkled hands gripping my tiny ones too tight, but how i never dared to complain. all i could think about was the pain of the handhold as she sang me songs in Fukinese, songs that i never understood and don’t remember.

i thought about the value of the mangoes my mother cut up, how she saved all the fleshy parts for us. she only ever ate off of the peels, biting off what was left after she fed us. i felt immense gratitude flood across my heart, for the times i never saw the sacrifice that helped put the grapes and strawberries and Asian pears on the kitchen table. the water added lovingly to congee, to stretch the grains of rice just a little bit further. the pots of soup that were made from not just the chicken, but the bones themselves, to stretch it just a little bit further too.
this actually haunts me regularly these days, in the face of the seeming gluttony of our $12 salads (oh and add four dollars for chicken breast).

perhaps it’s all so pessimistic. perhaps i’m dancing the fool’s dance, thinking this way. i feel almost guilty, that it’s all too easy to walk down a few blocks with a few dollars in hand acquire the rare and coveted and scarce treats of my childhood.
i feel like if i put all the words i could craft together in a bucket, it would still be too shallow to show my family how i feel about this, to tell them that i understand now. it feels a little like walking backstage and seeing what really made the play come to life.

i stood quietly behind a fence, watching a lone man practice qi gong. i studied the sweeping and dancing of his feet, the discipline behind his movements, the serenity that sat in the stillness of his face.
i know i panic daily, everything is in a rush, has to be part of a plan. it ruins lives, all this planning. let me learn how to slow down.

how do you sink into the noise around you? how do you transcend it?

there are times to sail on sailboats and not have any internet or phone connection.

there are times to be absent.

there are times to break silences

there are times to know the difference.

“Never mind if he calls, the places you get
through inwardness take time, and to drift
down to the shore of the island, you know
by the sand moving, even the coarse sand here
It’s hard to say if you can even stand up, there
but there is blue sky, and blue water tipping up
the same distance from you as your face. Its face
goes further behind the eyes, without weight
or haze, and the horizon is just a change where
from going deeper you go wider, but go”
— Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge (via cassie)

earlier this year, for a moment in time, everything stood still. and this man saved (changed) my life. he was more romantic than he’d admit, more intelligent than people give him credit for, and more tender than he’d like to seem.

we wrote letters back and forth for a little while, but it tapered off as we both became busier and more distant.  i still read this particular excerpt often:

“Your mom’s lectures sound pretty extensive and hardcore. I think that’s good though. She really cares and wants the best.

“I understand your issues with your father. My family actually has some tough communication issues, with my mom and dad. I’m trying hard with my mom though. Sitting on her couch as a write this.
I think my communication troubles stem from my relationship with my mom and dad actually. I’m trying to work on being a better communicator and being honest and open as well. It’s really tough though and I feel like I’m always opening myself up for ppl to judge me. I don’t deal so well with that. For men, communication is really tough. Men are taught to be doers and not really communicators. It’s good that you are trying to keep strains in your relationship with your father from effecting your other relationships. That’s not easy to do, but it’s important. Everyone deserves a fair shot to be understood and loved without comparison to someone else. We are each our own individuals and though many types of people may share traits, comparison is really not fair.

“Also your statement about men letting you down and your father letting you down really stood out to me. I can really relate and understand where you are coming from. The sad truth is that men are going to let you down. They just are. It’s a certainty. Your dad is going to let you down . . .  again. Unfortunately, I’m going to let you down. Your closest friends will let you down. The funny paradox is that the way humans are wired makes us desperate for relationship and so dependent on one another. But interestingly, other people can never fully be all that we may need them to be. Thus they are bound to disappoint us. It’s a really hard reality to swallow and something that I understand on an intellectual level (and I’m sure you do too) but hard to realize emotionally. Humans are gloriously tragic beings. Our capabilities, passion and beauty are truly amazing. We are truly something to behold. But our brokenness and shortcomings are so immediately present. It’s truly an amazing paradox. I write all that to say that you have to take the glory with the tragedy. Even when the tragic seems so overbearing, fight for perspective to see the good. If you think the fight is worth it. So take the glory with the tragedy with your dad, with men, with everyone. It doesn’t mean that you have to lower your standards for support, just change your perspective so that you can really SEE everything. But then again, you and I both know that this is all very easy to preach and very hard to practice. But just make the decision for yourself to see if it’s worth practicing.

“And that’s all I have to say about that. . . Forrest Gump style.”

– June 17th, which was 4 days before my birthday, which was 4 days before his flowers arrived at my front door. And my father’s orchids appeared on my desk in my room. Because life is like a box of chocolates.