Dumplings This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

April 9, 2009
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I was eight the first time I tried to make them. It was Chinese New Year, and I had a naive grin on my face as my dad summoned me over.

“Xier.” He hands me a piece of flat dough. “Watch me.” So I smile and concentrate on his calloused hands. He spoons the pork filling onto a circle of dough, folds the dough over and gently mends the sides together, his coarse fingers suddenly delicate. Ten seconds later, he's finished sculpting his museum-quality dumpling and stares at me. Of course, I'm still smiling confidently. He and I both look down at my hands still cupping that demanding piece of dough. It's pale yellow and so thin it's almost transparent. I avert my attention to the looming pot of pink pork before I timidly gaze up into my father's expectant eyes again.

“Your turn.”

I failed that first trial, taking three and a half minutes to produce a deformed dumpling that refused to close because half the filling was spilling out. But I was young. My dad laughed and said, “You'll learn.” But now I'm 12, and I haven't learned. And now, my dad doesn't laugh. He yells.

Today's Friday, and since there's nothing planned for dinner, Dad decides that we're making dumplings. “Come down and help!” he shouts, but I pretend not to hear as I work on my homework.

Then he sends my little brother, Liang, upstairs to say that Dad wants me to make dumplings. “Wait,” I mumble, but Liang's not patient and he kicks my books closed before racing back downstairs.

I trudge to the bathroom, where I wash my hands. “Xier, come on!” my sister, Meng, calls. Leisurely sliding down the banister, I make sure everyone notices me before going to wash my hands again, downstairs, just to waste time.

Finally I step into the kitchen and see everyone's eyes on me. I sit down with a grimace and reach for a circle of dough. I spoon a wad of filling onto it. Of course, I've added too much pork, and my dad asks, “Don't you know how to make dumplings?” So I desperately try to fix the sides and prove I do know how to make my country's delicacy.

However, the dough is too thin and the part I'm pulling breaks off in my hand. I hurry to smooth it back on and stop embarrassing myself, but on the other side of my dumpling, the pork is slipping out.

Panicking, I try to mend both problems at once, with one hand on each end, but making dumplings just doesn't work that way, so the entire thing splits in half right down the middle and I'm left with the floor to clean. I sense that stinging feeling in my nose that always precedes tears, but I can't cry – not here, not now. Forcing the tears back, I open my eyes. The dazzling light hits me and I observe that, thankfully, everyone's gone back to their own dumplings.

I make another one and it's all right, but there are a couple of loose areas where the filling is at risk. My dad doesn't notice, and I'm certainly not going to tell him, so I quickly drop my dumpling on the plate along with all the other showoffs.

But Meng notices. Peripherally, I watch my sister prod at my pathetic dumpling. “What shall we do with this one, Xier?” She relocates it to a separate plate, and I know it's been deemed trash. I fake lackadaisical indifference. My nose, however, sympathetically tingles again, but I shoo away my tears.

Eventually, I finish making four dumplings, and I merrily exhibit them next to my sister's, even though my four lack the poise and refinement that each and every one of hers flaunts. Nevertheless, I am proud.

Later, my dad takes my first, futile dumpling over to the stove and my spirits soar. Perhaps it wasn't useless; he was going to boil it! So I smile contentedly, and voluntarily wipe the table and clear the dishes, all the time thinking that now I have made five dumplings. Still grinning, I go take out the trash, and there's my dumpling, all bruised and torn, pitifully poised right on top. And of course, I can't stop my tears three times, so they leak out unexpectedly, warm and compassionate.

Scampering upstairs, I slam off the lights, sprawl on my bed, and swathe my face in the blanket. And I try to sleep. It's only 7 o'clock, but I sleep and I sleep and I sleep. I sleep so much that when I wake up, I'm still sleeping. And I lose my sense of the world.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 16 comments. Post your own now!

Nov. 15, 2011 at 8:14 am
i thought that the emotion was really good. But other than that the story was really good
DiamondsIntheGrass This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm
the emotion in this is really relatable.  i have the same problem with my wontons :P. thier always too fat. but anyway, i was wondering how tears can be warm and compassionate.  and the last paragraph confused me a bit. yeah. is this a memoir, or a made up story?
peixinmo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm
thank you! sorry for replying so late. tears, warm and compassionate, warm as in literally warm, and compassionate as in... caring, comforting, understanding. hahaha, sorry if the personification was unclear. and it's half a memoir, half made-up. :]
Steph0804 replied...
Aug. 10, 2011 at 8:11 am

I feel bad every time I get yelled at for not being able to speak Korean. I mean, I can speak the vernacular, but I sometimes don't understand what everyone's talking about, and I can't read my grandma's Christmas cards.

Hm... maybe I should write about that.

Mystique said...
Jan. 24, 2010 at 7:00 am
I loved the emotion in this, I really did.
Rebecca24 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm
The emotion is so palpable. Great job!
pencilchick said...
Jan. 6, 2010 at 10:27 pm
Wow amazing, I mean I am almost 18 and I still go through things like this. It's timeless and reaches all ages. Good job. Thats tough work
TPgrange123 said...
Dec. 30, 2009 at 3:45 pm
Simply lovely, a beautiful way to demonstrate a child's thirst for praise, acceptance, and respect.
xohugaholicxo said...
May 9, 2009 at 6:35 am
Wow....really good diction

i thought i was reading one of those SAT sections. you are amazingly good with personification and brining inanimate objects to life.
pankatthedisco said...
May 2, 2009 at 4:49 am
I love this story :)
Pei, you make something like dumplings seem like a work of art, which i adore. your diction is just amazing :]
wishingtheworldwassimpler said...
Apr. 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm
Read it multiple times.
Each time, something new was brought to my attention.
Great writing skills, wonderful ability to bring out emotions.
May said...
Apr. 24, 2009 at 12:20 pm
A very nice and sincere story.
Me3246 said...
Apr. 23, 2009 at 11:14 am
It starts of as a seemingly over reaction of just not being able to make a dumpling. But the cultural integration and the sense of exclusion that is felt brings it so much deeper.

It becomes a story of honor and pride that we all fight for, even in the simplest of situations.

The ending really serves to elevate what the reader can see as the child's feeling of failure.

Great story and I especially like the clever way you conveyed emotions, particularly t... (more »)
doubelieveinmagic? said...
Apr. 21, 2009 at 10:54 pm
This reads like an actual article one would find in a magazine! It's prefectly real and understandable. Totally relate ;)
aggieheartspeixin said...
Apr. 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm
A fantastic mixture of emotions! 5 stars!
fififlowertot said...
Apr. 20, 2009 at 6:59 pm
Full of compassion, I could really sense the anger and frustration seeping through the text. Great story!!
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