For the first year after my grandma passed away, my grandpa went to her grave at least once a week, sometimes twice. Now he no longer goes that often, but every two weeks or so, my uncle Jin will drive grandpa fifteen miles from Cerritos to the sprawling Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California, neither man speaking much in the car. Continue reading “Family Matters: Errands”
Thus far, everything has gone as planned.
I woke up, chatted with POI on the phone, went to the kitchen to have a bowl of Frosted Miniwheats then went to the driving range with my mother. We discovered that the golf club in the neighboring city is quite nice, and not too expensive. We each hit one hundred balls, mine going much further than my mothers’ which prompted her to ask me for tips.
I have had exactly one “lesson” from my brother, who used to play semi-regularly when he lived in California. Bend your knees. Stick your butt out. Keep the left arm straight and your eye on the ball. Swing.
I swung a good twenty, twenty-five times before I ever made contact with the ball.
For golf, I had not beginner’s luck but second timer’s luck.
Two weeks ago I revisited the driving range in New York with POI, who likes the game, preferring to have a beer or two to loosen up. We biked to the waterfront driving range and I watched him play before hitting a few on my own.
“You’re pretty good,” POI noted.
“Hm,” I said. I agreed. But as with most things I do (or eventually give up on) consistency was an issue.
My mother, I observed this afternoon, would like to be able to drive the ball out much further than she currently does. Her range hovers around 100 yards, usually just below.
“I’m terrible,” she kept saying, but her shots were consistently straight. The sound her driver head made upon contacting the ball quite appealing.
I recorded a few of her swings on my iphone, saying things like, “Keep your arm straight,” and “Lift the club higher when you pull back,” in Chinese, but was aware that the entire situation was very blind leading the blind. I wondered if the more experienced people to our left and right were chuckling to themselves.
My first thirty or so shots with the driver were consistent too, until I discovered I was terrible on the irons and much better on the woods. I used the driver to hit the last twenty balls, none of which went as far or straight and flat as the first thirty. Consistency, where’d you go, I muttered to no one. Still, my mother was impressed and said it was a shame I didn’t start earlier.
“I wasn’t interested back then,” I said, shrugging.
She thought my tips were good. I’m pretty sure we both imagined it, but she seemed to be hitting just a few yards further by the end of the bucket.
“Take lessons when you get back to New York,” she said, when we were finished. I nodded. That might not be a bad idea.
We came home and had lunch. My mother fried a fish – scallions, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine – and my father suggested we finish off the coffee ice cream.
“Time to buy more,” he said, “though no one eats it with me when you’re not home.”
Everything as planned, this Saturday afternoon. Then I went to my room, called POI. He picked up and I started to cry.
The vestiges of our morning conversation. In POI’s words, I had tried to start a fight because I felt he hadn’t called enough over the past two weeks.
“But we talk every day,” he had said in the morning, though by “talk” he meant “text.”
“It’s not the same,” I said, because it’s not, “And remember. It’s a privilege to talk to me on the phone.”
Eventually we were laughing. We had hung up shortly before I left for the driving range, he feeling as though everything was resolved because there had been nothing wrong to begin with, and I feeling a hairsbreadth better, but mostly needy and uneven.
I spent the last two weeks telling my entire family that I was happy in New York, in my relationship, in school (which hasn’t started).
“This time around it’s very different huh?” my cousins asked, “So different from your first time.”
“Yeah,” I said, “So different and so good.”
It’s true, but I worry about my internal consistency, none of which is documented via the usual channels. What makes me feel happy and steady and at peace one minute and another, say, when I’m packing to leave one home for another, off-kilter and confused? I didn’t want to pull POI into this monologue – the “home” question. The what are we how are we who am I what is the future question. What comes tomorrow and the day after and the month and years and incredible vortex after? I didn’t want to pull him into the one-woman fray, but I had to, because it’s sort of what you sign up for when you date someone with a lot of words.
“I feel strange,” I said to him now.
“I don’t know,” because at that point I didn’t. But we talked and just a few minutes later I knew.
The fact that there were two sets of keys on my dresser, one with a Prius key and another with cards to the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Fare. The fact that I was packing again, taking a few more items of my room with me – things I had thought, when I set them down on whichever particular surface, would stay for many years if not forever. The fact that I spent several days mulling over whether to bring said items – because do they belong at this home or the other? The fact that I’d come back this time, filled with the comforting confidence one has when one returns to a familiar city with familiar, loving faces, only to arrive and feel as though I’d forgotten to bring something important.
I told POI so, though not in those exact words. When I cry the words seem to drip down my face and I often can’t say anything for interminable minutes.
“I think I get it,” he said.
And maybe he does. But more importantly, I got it.
Last Saturday, I permed my hair. A digital perm which is supposed to be not only better for your hair but also produce more relaxed, natural results. I had a regular perm back in elementary school. The same time I had braces and short hair. I went to school the next day and a jackass with poetic leanings called me Medusa. By lunch he had revised it to “Metal Mouth Medusa.”
Alliteration. Gotta love it.
I avoided perms for a while until I was twenty-five, when I discovered digital perms. So that’s why Korean and Japanese girls have those glossy, glorious looking body waves. I signed up for one and it was a big hit. A friend said, “Whoa, you actually look feminine for once.” My mother said I looked very romantic, like Kate Winslet from “Titanic.” “…Thanks mom.” A guy I met online and went on two dates with said my personality was like my hair, “Bouncy.” It was a nice thing to say. Unfortunately his personality was like his hair, flat.
I’ve had other perms since then, but spaced out to let my hair recover. Also, in New York these perms are crazy expensive. Instead, I’ve been patient, growing my hair out, trimming it every few months to keep it healthy so that I could damage it all in one go for a digital perm, all in the name of femininity.
I sat in a Korean-owned Irvine salon for five hours getting it cut and permed. My stylist was pregnant and very pretty. She complimented the strength of my hair and told me about her husband who taught Tae Kwon Do. She was going to have another daughter and my goodness your hair is really strong I need to apply the relaxer twice. Set the temperature higher than normal. My neck got close to burning quite a few times and when it was finally done, I was running late for my cousin Angela’s housewarming dinner.
I walked in, aware of how curly my right-after-perm hair was. I prayed that it would not stay this way.
“Be honest,” I said, plunking myself down and feeling my hair swing up and down, “Do I look like Mozart?”
My mom paused a moment too long before saying no, but her eyes said, “A little bit.”
“It’s fine,” my cousin Angela said, her eyes saying the same thing, “It’ll relax.”
I knew this. But my other perms had not taken five hours.
Later, we moved from the restaurant to Angela’s new house. Grandpa, who’d sat at the other end of the table at dinner, came up to me now.
“It’s time you got a haircut,” he said.
I laughed (“Oh Grandpa, so acerbic and witty and sarcastic and funny”), and wandered off to see Angela’s house, a cozy duplex in Irvine with a gleaming kitchen and hardwood floors.
An hour later, I readied to leave.
“Bye grandpa,” I said, but he waved me over.
“Really,” he said again, a shade of urgency in his voice, “It’s time you got your hair cut.”
“Oh you were being serious?”
“Of course!” he looked surprised, “Why would I joke about these things?”
I had assumed someone told him why I was late to dinner.
“I was just at the salon,” I told grandpa, “I just got my hair cut and permed.” For nearly two hundred dollars! I wanted to add, but decided not to. Didn’t want to give a frugal man an extravagant nosebleed.
He leaned back with a bewildered look, “Then why does it look like that?”
The toughest part about coming home is also the most wonderful part. Mostly, making time for everyone I want to see.
Except this time, people were expecting more than just me.
“Where’s POI?” Aunt Angelina exclaimed when I showed up for dim-sum.
I shrugged, “He had plans.”
“Is POI here too?” a friend texted.
“Plans,” I texted back, “He had some.”
“Your friend is welcome to come too,” Aunt Jin-Feng said, inviting me to my cousin’s fancy birthday party at Souplantation tomorrow night.
“My friend?” I was confused, then realized I was Chinese and my aunt was Chinese and I shouldn’t have been confused because while the term “boyfriend” exists in Chinese, its application is like that of a pistol: just because you have one doesn’t mean you should use it.
“Ah my ‘friend’ is not here,” I said, “He had some family plans. But perhaps next time.”
The men were less fussed. POI included.
I texted him this morning, “My entire family is like, ‘Where’s POI?’
“Next time,” he wrote.
“Yeah, otherwise they will think I made the whole thing up.”
“You’d be a fiction writer then.”
My uncle Louis swung by and gave me a big hug.
“You’re back!” he said, then nodding almost gravely, asked, “And school. How’s that going?”
“I’m on summer break,” I said, “I start school in two weeks.”
“Great,” he said, then looked around with an expression that said, ‘Something’s missing.’
I braced myself.
“Where’s your mom? I’m supposed to take her to the car dealership.”
Later that afternoon Uncle Jin picked me up for dimsum and asked how my boyfriend was doing in San Francisco.
“SF? He lives in New York.”
He scratched his head, “That’s odd. Why did I think San Francisco?”
I opened my mouth, ready to explain that E, the girl who’d set us up lives in San Francisco and perhaps facts had gotten scrambled while the details of my relationship were being passed from mom to aunt to aunt to uncle, but my grandpa came out of the house just then.
Grandpa waved to me, “Welcome back.”
He gave no indication that he expected anyone else. Asked no questions. I smiled.
“Let’s go,” he said, “Lunch.”
At dimsum, my aunt bemoaned the fact that two years ago my cousin had brought her then boyfriend to meet the grandparents. They broke up less than three months later.
“Had I known they wouldn’t be together three months later I would never have arranged that dinner!” She put her hands to her forehead, “And at this very restaurant!”
I assured her, sitting atop the pile of wisdom I’d accrued in the last year, that she couldn’t have known. No one does, really, until it happens.
“Still,” my aunt said, putting her hand on her forehead, “Grandpa must think she has a new boyfriend every few months.”
I looked at Grandpa, who didn’t appear to be listening. He had eaten more than usual and was probably looking forward to his afternoon nap.
“Do you want to meet POI?” I asked him.
He sighed and shook his head, leaned back.
“You young people. It doesn’t matter if I want to meet him. If you like the person and want to be with him, then I’ll meet him.”
“Good point Grandpa.” I reached for another cream bun, a dessert we both loved, and asked if he wanted half.
“No no,” my aunt said, “just put it on his plate.”
“I’m good,” Grandpa said.
“Put it on his plate.”
I put it on his plate. He smiled, and shaking his head, ate it.
When I’d lived in New York for three months I did something I rarely do. I wrote an email in Chinese to my grandmother in Taiwan. This was November 2013. I kept it short, giving a brief overview of my studies, life in New York and POI. I paused a moment before clicking “send,” mostly because things were going well for me, a young woman who (at least on her Instagram) seemed to be having too much fun while dipping her toes into her first romance (here, POI rolls his eyes and shudders violently). By then, my grandmother, a breast cancer survivor, had been widowed four years and was living alone.
On my birthday last Friday, my father called.
“When are you coming home again?” Continue reading “Turning 28”
I scrolled all the way down my Instagram today to some thirty-five weeks ago, when I still lived at home. I stopped at this photograph I took of my grandfather, probably on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon, since those were the days I went and had lunch with him. He’s reading a newspaper clipping with a magnifying glass and though I’m taking a photo of him, I was probably reading something too.
My desk today at 4PM.
This morning I made my father a smoothie with kale, carrots, oranges, frozen berries, and a squeeze of lemon, which is supposed to help the body absorb more nutrients. Continue reading “My Very Highbrow New Year’s Resolutions”
|The view from my window, taken during New York’s first snow.|
I set out to make new friends, but was met at the airport with old chums from middle school. Among the best feelings in the world: being greeted by familiar faces outside an unfamiliar airport. Continue reading “Photo Diary of a Year: Scenes from 2013, Part 3 (The Last Part)”