Oba | Teen Ink


April 25, 2008
By Anonymous


A name, two syllables. The first word that slipped from my small lips 11 years ago on Chinese New Year. That day remains stored in my mind like a dusty box in the back of the closet, it doesn't seem to have significance or effect on you now, and yet, while knowing it's nothing you can't let it go.

Fog swirled outside my window, some of it seeped through the crack in the window which was stuck open, or perhaps it was the steam from my grandpa's pot stickers in the wok. Either way, it was really that sight, that, strange clump of curls that made me get up instead of fall back asleep.

"Ehh, Ehh!" I screeched, raising my hands up in the air like a sprout reaching up out of the ground, alive and young believing it had to be there up there with all the other plants high near the sky. My mom lifted me up embracing me in her arms.

"Swai chao lo,-go to sleep" urged my mom in a shaky yet strangely still voice like a glacier before it erupts. She had a lot to tend to, her parents criticizing the way she prepares for Chinese New Year, whether her children will turn out right with her teaching, whether they would understand the culture, the struggles and the joy of their homeland because as they would say when the tree dies the grass underneath it withers. If the culture, the spirit of the homeland died in her, it would also die in the children.

"Here Oba is with you" she muttered in English while passing me to the arms of my grandma.

"O wa ka," my grandma half whispered half sang. The scent of tea and ginger lingered in her clothes and her silver curls would shine in the light. She could always find the right tone, she could cradle me in her arms just right. It was like a goldilocks story, sometimes my sister would hold me a little too tight my mom a little to gentle but with Oba, it would always be just right. "Oba," I said, almost too indistinguishable to understand. In that moment in time the world froze, on that icy, busy, tired morning, with stress levels on the high nothing was too stressful too gentle or too tight, everything was just right.

When things go wrong when I want to curl up in bed forget about everything and wake up dead, when everything is too much or too little I think of that moment I think of her silver locks, I smell the sweet spices and warm tea, I feel the moist air on my skin. I'll never know what it is but I'll never forget it. Either way, it's really that sight, that strange clump of curls that made me get up instead of fall back asleep and that one word hanging in the back of my mind to never be thrown away.


Writer's Note: The use of different dialects in this piece are a reflection of the writer's own heritage.

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