Chinese Cucumbers This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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      I curiously watched my grandmother open the yellowing paper packet with painstaking care. When she untied the knots, a cluster of strange, shriveled off-white orbs fell into her hands. These seeds were all that remained of the life she had left behind in the Shandong Province of China. As she packed her possessions to leave that countryside, she had slipped these seeds into her silk shirt, hoping to grow them in foreign soil. In America, however, the first place we lived was a tiny apartment building on a busy street, followed by a larger condo on the thirteenth floor. Five years had passed since my grandmother arrived in America and it seemed as if she would never be able to plant the seeds. Still, she kept them safe.

When I was six and about to begin school, my family moved to the first floor of a three-family house squeezed between a parking lot and another large house. There was no lawn, only a two and a half foot wide by ten foot long patch of dirt with a rose bush and knee-high weeds. It was in this house that my grandmother took out her packet of seeds.

“They won’t grow,” my father said.

“It’s too much work,” my mother said, thinking it would be a waste of time.

As my grandmother listened to their words, she smiled. I watched her place the seeds in a big bowl of water. As she worked to rid that patch of dirt of its forest of weeds, I amused myself by watching the shriveled little orbs grow round and plump in the water.

Each day I would rush home from school to the dirt patch and look for the vegetables we’d planted. Chinese cucumbers, my grandmother said. I wondered how they would differ from American cucumbers but didn’t ask what I feared might be a silly question.

At first there was nothing, and I thought maybe my parents were right, that it had been too long for the seeds and the life in them had died. Or maybe Chinese cucumbers couldn’t grow in American soil.

Then one day there was a sprout, then two, then four. My grandmother smiled again, as a mother who believes in her son smiles when he succeeds. The plants grew so prolifically that I swore the vines lengthened before my eyes. Every day I would tell my parents how big the leaves had become and how many bright yellow flowers had appeared on the vines. When the last of the yellow flowers withered and fell off, little cucumbers started appearing. Crisp and tender, I have never had a vegetable so delicious.

Back then, I believed it was the magic power of the cucumber seeds that made them grow. Even 8,000 miles from home, they bloomed with such intensity and determination. I vowed to be like the Chinese cucumbers. No matter how far life takes me from home, I will embrace the world around me and thrive on foreign soil.

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

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the February 2007 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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chasche said...
Jun. 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Amy, I really love your little story, and I know exactly what you felt and how you felt when you wrote it, because your wonderful writing skills. This also makes me so proud to be a Chinese myself.

Thanks for the wonderful story!

 
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