Just Add Water | Teen Ink

Just Add Water MAG

November 1, 2009
By Shiyi Zhang BRONZE, Peachtree City, Georgia
Shiyi Zhang BRONZE, Peachtree City, Georgia
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments

I was an old woman at age eight. The front lawn had bulged overnight, becoming a mountain too steep to climb. Lemons had infested the pink cabinets of my kitchen, and I lacked a recipe for lemonade. I later found the ingredients were simple: just add water. But at the tender age of eight, who knew?

Wanjiao was too tall when I first met her. I had to tilt my head to look her in the eye, and even then, I was an ant at the base of a tree. I loved the boyishness of her grin. I loved the awkwardness of her limbs‚ all angles, like sapling branches that had sprouted too fast. I asked for her name. I received a blank stare. I asked again, and suddenly, I understood. She was one of those “others,” those wide-eyed creatures fresh from the homeland. She didn't speak English.

Embarrassment made me mute. Incompetence made me resentful. Wanjiao was Chinese; I was not. I was an American stew brewed with Chinese bits and pieces that flopped, like mushy carrots, at the bottom of the bowl. No one tasted them twice. Meanwhile, Wanjiao commanded flawless Chinese. She spoke the language so fluidly that the words rippled, sparkling with all their dips and bounds. She sailed on an ocean of poetry.

I didn't know what to say. As always, Wanjiao did.

“Ni hao,” she said. Hello. Cheerfulness rounded her face. In Mandarin, she proceeded, “Would you like to come with me to the playground?”

Sunlight glinted on scarlet slides and rusted monkey bars. I recall kneeling in the dirt. I recall mud on my fingers, giggles in my ears, the golden breath of the sun on my neck. A thunderstorm had blown by that morning, and our shoes begged to be ­ruined. We didn't make pies; boorish and barbaric, mud pies insulted our sophistication. Instead, we hatched soup. We fashioned ladles from sticks, stirred up the goo, and seasoned it with acorns.

“Do you remember China?” asked Wanjiao.

“A little,” I lied.

Wanjiao smiled. “I miss my grandparents.”

I learned that she'd left everyone in China – her grandparents, her cousins, her friends. She'd left them in order to come here, to America. She'd left them for parents she scarcely knew, and now she could never go back. She needed a friend.

“Wanjiao,” I said, “I'm glad you're here.”

An old woman left the playground that evening. My feet still scraped the asphalt as I tugged myself home, the murky twilight heavy at my back. Little did I know that Wanjiao would become my best friend. I wouldn't know that for years. All I knew, at that moment, was that life had given me lemons, and I had not a single recipe for lemonade.

Wanjiao showed me the ingredients. All along, they'd been right before my eyes.



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This article has 8 comments.


on Mar. 21 2012 at 3:56 pm
WritingAddict BRONZE, Lemont, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
I'm not allowed to be within 100 feet of a school . . . or a chuckee cheeze.
-The Hangover

I just wanted to say that I seriously loved this. It was amazing!!!

on Jan. 13 2012 at 1:18 am
TheAsianHeather SILVER, Wuhan, Other
6 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
It is no longer I that live,but Christ living in me.-The Apostle Paul

I agree. Or maybe it means that you can make life sweet out of bitterness.

on Oct. 25 2011 at 4:58 pm
pens-are-mightier-than-swords SILVER, Caledonia, Michigan
8 articles 0 photos 46 comments

Favorite Quote:
"we often put up walls not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down"
~Author Unknown

I'm not entirely sure about the symbolism of the lemonade, but I think maybe it's that Wanjiao showed the narrorator how to make the best out of life.

on Jan. 1 2011 at 4:49 pm
TheAsianHeather SILVER, Wuhan, Other
6 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
It is no longer I that live,but Christ living in me.-The Apostle Paul

I really love this story,but I don't know what it means,though.I mean,the friendship you described is really sweet,but what's up with the lemonade thing?Your friend's lucky.

Keyodie said...
on May. 11 2010 at 4:38 pm
Keyodie, Fayetteville, Georgia
0 articles 6 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The average person thinks he isn't." -Anonymous

Woops, didn't mean to reply to the other post. Now I'm spamming your stuff. Hahaha.

Keyodie said...
on May. 11 2010 at 4:37 pm
Keyodie, Fayetteville, Georgia
0 articles 6 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The average person thinks he isn't." -Anonymous

You are a child prodigy, dear friend.

on Mar. 27 2010 at 9:32 pm
Shiyi Zhang BRONZE, Peachtree City, Georgia
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Yeah I should have chopped the last line and edited the paragraph before it. Your critique is brilliant - thanks.

on Mar. 27 2010 at 8:10 pm
emilysbreakfast GOLD, Alto, Michigan
10 articles 0 photos 48 comments

This was terrifically constructed, i mean, almost flawless.  It really could have passed as proffessional work.

My only isssue is that the ending of the last full paragraph fulfilled a perfect ending, so the very last line went  unneeded. 



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