Home of My Memories

June 29, 2017

When I think of my childhood, I fail to recall much from my time in America—almost nothing from my preschool and elementary years lingers in my memory. Instead, my mind travels farther back in time to the place called Zhongshan, somewhere in China. I think of the three-story house that I never truly appreciated, with the red-shingled roof and dizzying number of light switches, and the grand piano the color of ink. I think of our small but homely backyard, the one we shared with Tao-Tao and her family.

I think of the black deer with tiny white flecks that I loved to stroke, the perfect size for a ten-year-old to ride on. But not me. I was too small, not as tall as my older sister, bigger than me by five years.

I remember the fruit tree in the corner, low enough for me to see the ripe fruit hanging temptingly in front of my face, but too high for me to reach. I remember the refreshing coolness of the sweet fruit as the juice dribbled down my chin like tiny rivulets. I can almost feel the satisfying fullness in my belly after I’ve eaten bite after bite of the seemingly endless supply.

I see my grandfather’s pepper patch, ordinary but heart-warming to see. I remember my grandpa, gray-haired and smiling, his good-natured chuckles permeating the air at something I said. I see him bend down to pick the peppers, flame-colored and curling out from the soil—reaching for the sun.

Then there are the footprints. I believed it was some kind of family tradition at the time, but now I think it was simply a way of making our mark, proof of our residence...something warm to look back at after a few years.

I think of the tall, black gates clawing toward the clouds, and the sloping streets beyond. I remember my cousin making us milk tea, convincing me to Ripstik with her outside by bribing me with a second mug of fresh tea. I recall my unwillingness to step on an unstable pink thing with wheels and let it take me down the declivity of the gravel road.

I can remember all of this...yet I cannot recall the reason I loved the deer so much and yearned to ride it one day, or if I ever got a chance to. I don’t remember the name of the fruit, or how large it was, or the color of the skin. I am not sure if my cousin put cream in the milk tea, and I do not know why she was so insistent that I ride with her. I don’t know if I ever tasted the chilis, or what it was I said that had made my grandpa laugh so heartily. But I remember the important things, the things that make the memories so heart-warming and beautiful—the details that make me love my childhood and wonder about it at the same time.

It is both comforting and saddening to remember the deep blue of the endless stretch of sky, a reminder of the times not so long ago when the clouds were still marshmallow white and the sun still warmed my shoulders. Those were the times I treasure now...the hot days that never bothered the carefree young girl who skipped past the adult stores and headed for the places she knew contained sweet, refreshing ice cream. The girl who had no care for the troubles of reality. The girl who lived in a place I once called “home.”

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