No Fear! Big Brother is Here!

Sorry that it’s been so long since I last updated this blog. Been just…unmotivated to write. I don’t have any excuses since I’m the one who wanted to start this blog of memories. Perhaps it’s not knowing who my readers are, or some other hidden meaning that I don’t know about. Maybe laziness?

This memory steams back to the time we all lived in Essex Junction. This is the same house we lived in from a previous post.

This was a one story house with four rooms perhaps? Maybe five? I don’t really remember how many rooms this house had, and that may be from having not lived there for a long time.

On this particular day, my brother J and I were running around the house fighting imaginary foes. When G.I. Joes and Ninja Turtles have an active part in your life, your imagination just frees itself. We carried these toy walkie-talkies with us, branded with a G.I. Joe logo on the front. As we ran through the hallway of our one floor house, we made sure to avoid bothering our biggest brother, who sat cross-legged on the floor watching a Chinese movie or T.V. show. We were being chased by something terrifying, and J ran into one of the bedrooms and quickly disappeared under the blankets. I guess that was enough to realize the danger was real, and J wasn’t big enough to protect me from the monsters. I turned around, ran back into the living room, and my big brother gave a groan as I landed in his lap. I huddled against him, and he just tried calming me down while keeping focus on the T.V. Nothing could overcome the biggest brother. Well, maybe our dad, but at this moment my biggest brother was the strongest man alive.

Then, from out of nowhere, a disembodied voice called me by name from my lap. What kind of monster knows me by name? J and I must be dealing with some crazy monster, and he was alone in the bedroom under the covers.

After my biggest brother calmed me down, I found my walkie-talkie on the rug and the voice still calling my name. I answered back with some hesitation and a familiar voice replied back. J asked me to return to the bedroom. For the rest of the day, I just stayed with my biggest brother.

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Remembering Aunt

Last week, I went to visit my relatives in Toronto. It had been about 7 years since I last gave them a visit. One of the biggest reasons for me to visit was for my aunt, who is my blood relative there. She is my father’s oldest sister.

Back in December, her husband passed away, and her children have been visiting her every day in the nursing home. I didn’t realize how much has changed since December, even in these last 7 years.

Before I visited my aunt, my cousin brought me to pay respects to my uncle. His ashes were stored in a temple known at 佛光山 (Foguang Shan). A sign outside the prayer room asked you only take one joss stick (essentially an incense stick). Seeing as today I’m not only here alone and representing my other brothers back in China, I took three.

We did not stay at the temple for very long. My cousin brought me to the nursing home to visit my aunt. Right before we had left the temple, though, my nice and nephew (well, in Chinese culture they refer to me as uncle, but they are first cousin once removed) explained to me that my aunt may not remember me, and not to take offense.

Hearing those words were very mind opening.  My Chinese pronunciation isn’t great, so I became concerned that not only would my aunt not recognize me but wouldn’t even be able to understand me.

We arrived at the first floor of the nursing home. Pamphlets and hand written letters written in both English and Chinese were pinned to the wall. We took the elevator up, to the fifth floor I think, and walked into the dining room.

In the far end of the room sat my other cousin, who’s attention was on her mother. My cousin and I sat down, and my aunt’s first question was, “Who are you?” My cousin replied, “I’m your son!” You could feel the weight of his heart against his warm smile as he asked his sister if aunt was eating. Aunt didn’t eat; she only spat out the food. Then aunt’s attention turned to me and she asked the same question.

I replied with my name: “我是龙华. 华仔.” It was clear that neither name (well, 华仔 is more of a nickname) had any familiarity to her ears. She repeated back the name to me, and I smiled back.

My aunt would periodically ask who I was, and I’d tell her I’m her nephew from the US. I drove 7 hours to see her. I told her I have brothers in China, to which she replies, “龙华, you love me so much! Your brothers don’t love me!” It’s both funny and sad at the same time to hear this reaction. I explained to her that for me, it’s very easy to drive, but for my brothers it’s too far. She soon forgot, and I would remind her my name and that she’s my aunt and I’m her nephew. I would tell her she would make pork chops and buy me dim sum.

My cousin (her daughter) told me that some mornings, she will take her outside on the patio and my aunt loves seeing this cow statue. It’s one of those abstract statues where a bunch of silver metallic pieces are arranged in such a way that forms a cow shape.

A few days later, I got my brother on a video chat to speak with my aunt. It was quite a bitter sweet moment. My aunt couldn’t remember my brother. I told aunt that he is in our hometown back in China, and sometimes aunt would remember little by little.

After that day, I told my nephew I wanted to buy aunt a cow stuffed animal. We drove around the whole day, going from toy store to toy store, but Toronto is not cow country. There were horses, and spotted dogs, and pigs and every farm animal you could find but no cows. Maybe cows are super popular and got sold out?

I did find a plush ow the other day. Right in a wooden box found within the Apple Cider Mill gift shop in Vermont. Cow country. Hopefully I can go back, buy the cow, and mail it to my aunt. Though it might be better to present it to her in person, I’m really not sure how much longer she has, but I’m glad to have been able to visit her again.

Countdown to the green light

One sunny afternoon in Essex, my mom and I stopped on at Grand Union to buy groceries. This was way back in the day when Grand Union, Ames, and one other store I can’t remember took the place what is now Lowes.

Just Mom and I in the front seat. There’s something special when it’s just the two of us. As we sat there waiting for the light to turn green, I reached up and changed the angle of the rear view mirror. Pretending to drive means I have to be able to see the cars behind me, right? Well Mom changed the mirror back so she could see, so I just looked at the mirror from the visor above my seat. A man in a pickup track waited behind us, and I tried turning around to get a better view. My eyes barely made it over the seat; I probably only saw the top of the window of the backseat. I sat back down, waiting for the light to change green.

“5…4…3…2…”

But I never got to 1. What happened stopped my thoughts as our car spun into the three way intersection. I don’t remember how many times our car spun. Everything was just a blur, but when we finally stopped I felt a tinge of guilt. Why did I have to change the rear view mirror? What if I hadn’t tried to see the driver behind us?

Mom was very dazed and confused. She was trying to be strong and brave, but she couldn’t communicate with the other drivers as they ran to our car. I was too young and scared to say a word. But my mom was strong and brave. She was also smart. She removed a cap from her head and pointed at the logo stitched to the hat: the phone number and address to our restaurant about a mile down the road.

We sat in the car with traffic stopped all around us. I couldn’t remember who else was involved. Maybe there was a police officer directing traffic. We must have sat there for a long time. My sister came running down the road, wearing the same hat as my mother. My heart felt relieved.

Who is your super hero?

Looking back, I have very few memories of my dad. He was always working hard for the family. I have a few pictures of him and I together in the same photo. There is a family photo where I am sitting on my dad’s lap. I used to wonder why I sat on his lap. Why not sit on my mom’s lap? My brother sat on her lap, but not me. For some reason, I felt that I should be sitting on my mom’s lap.

One strong memory I have is that my dad smoked. It’s not a negative memory; it’s just difficult for me to remember him from my childhood. I don’t think he was a heavy smoker, but I remember he liked to smoke. Maybe from working so hard in restaurant he needed to relax. Could be that this was just something he carried over from China.

My brother and I are only 4 years apart in age, and we didn’t like that he smoked. One time during a road trip, we all stopped at a convenience store. There was a cigarette box key chain with a single cigarette poking out the box, and if you pressed it down, the voice box within the key chain would cough a few times followed by something against smoking. I thought it was a great key chain, but of course my dad couldn’t understand the message.

It’s tough trying to remember what kind of father you had when you were so little. I have many pictures of him and myself: birthday parties, dinners, him and my mom. I even have a family movie with him in it, however it’s scary to realize that these real events from the past cannot be found within my memory. I don’t remember whose birthday we are celebrating, but there is a cake in the photo. In another photo, he holds my arm to keep me balanced as I stand in a chair to get in the photo frame. We are all chiming our drinking glasses. Our home video shows us all enjoying a dim sum meal in Boston. Maybe as I continue with this blog, I will be able to recall more memories of my father.

Rock beats scissor. Scissor scares you into the bathtub.

I’ve spent some trying to recall some memories of my sister. I know she was a very loving sister. She took me shopping a lot. She actually bought us a Super Nintendo when it first came out. We started with Super Mario World. I was pretty little then, maybe around four? One of my biggest regrets was giving it to my cousins when I got older.

One time, she was driving my brother and I back from the mall, at least that’s I’m guessing. Where else would we be traveling from on the interstate back to the restaurant? I remember she was driving, and my brother and I were both sitting in the car having fun playing with the windshield wipers. Thinking back, this was a very dangerous thing to play with in the car. Watching the windshield wiper fluid splatter across the windshield had a magical effect. Eventually, my sister realized the safety concern behind this and she had to stop us from continuously pushing the button. I was quite disappointed.

One time she was helping me take a bath. This was kinda scary, and I guess funny at the same time. Apparently I didn’t want to get into the bathtub, even though I was already naked. She mimicked these scissors with her fingers, and that terrified me. Terrified me enough to get into the tub. What else was she gonna snip? I had an overactive imagination as a four year old.

Hmm it’s kind of difficult to remember what my childhood was like with her. It seems like smaller memories right now. I do have one special memory, in a way, of her, but I’ll share that one later on. For tonight, these two memories will have to do.

Playtime with my big brother

My older brother really like G.I. Joe. I’m talking about the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero from the 80s. While he liked the action hero Joe, I was more into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What can I say? I was like 3 years old and he was around 7. Turtles who eat pizza and use ninja swords were much cooler than G.I.’s shooting guns (I actually liked watching the G.I. Joe movies when I became his age, like G.I. Joe: The Movie and The Revenge of Cobra mini-series).

The cool thing about my brother was when we played games with his G.I. Joe and Cobra action figures. We had this fun way of making all the action figures fight each other by piling them all together and kinda tossing them like fried rice in a large wok. Except we’d use our hands to toss them about, not spatulas and tongs. The crazy rattling noise of the plastic soldiers mashing together got me really excited. After about 30 seconds of this non-stop tossing, the battle was pretty much over. I can’t really remember how my Ninja Turtles were involved with the frenzy; maybe they sat these games out since the Ninja Turtle action figures were much bigger then the little Joe’s.

We also had our own little secret, and I’m not sure if our parents or older siblings ever found out. Since we didn’t have any toy buildings or other structures for our Joe’s to hide in, we would bring in sticks from outside into the bedrooms. He would construct these elaborate stick houses for the G.I. Joe’s and we would use those as either defense walls or some kind of fortitude between Cobra and G.I. Joe. Afterwards, instead of throwing the sticks back outside, we would hide them under the bed. Obviously, our parents and older siblings could see the twigs and branches sticking out, so what’s the solution? Place pillows all around the base of the bed frame to hide the sticks. No one would suspect a thing.

The monster in the paper bag

Which memories do you decide to write first? As hard as you try to retrace your memories, there isn’t a valid way to catalogue your memories in chronological order. Tonight’s memory isn’t anything too spectacular, but it’s one of my earliest memories of my mom.

I was around 3-years old at the time. We hadn’t moved out of our Essex home. From the outside, it wasn’t anything spectacular. A one car garage on the right, stairs led up to the front door. It was a small house for 7 people, and for me this was my first home.

On this day, my mom and I went to a local seafood store that was down the road from us. I really didn’t like walking. Mainly because my stubby legs and tiny feet could only cover so much ground. I also just wanted to be carried by my mom.

We walked home from the seafood store with Mom carrying a large paper bag. I must have been a very energetic child because at one point, we had to stop along a stonewall so Mom could catch her breath. Mom needed both hands to carry the paper bag, and I wanted her to carry me instead. Or at least play with me. Or hold my hand. That’s when the paper bag moved. Something was still alive inside. I no longer wanted Mom to carry me. I just fixated my eyes on this large package Mom held, and before I could even think of what lurked inside, a red claw tore through the paper like nothing! I must have gone crazy because a second claw followed! Both claws waved around the air, each held down tightly with blue rubber bands. My mom was carrying a monster. She must have been so brave. I don’t think I wanted my mom to carry me next to such a beast.

Finding a voice among strangers

For quite some time, I’ve wanted to write a blog to keep track of my childhood memories. I haven’t yet decided why I chose a blog as my medium. One friend suggested I do a v-blog, but I’m not that comfortable in front of the camera. I have also wondered why even share my personal story with the world instead of just recording everything in a diary for my personal reflection. I do tend to keep this blog a secret from friends and personal family, and I feel that will help me find a way to write these short memoirs. To be honest, I have a very difficult time sharing these stories with anyone, even to my closest of friends. Maybe by writing to complete strangers, I will have an outlet to share my voice.

I’m not sure the frequency of when I’m going to publish something. Right now, I can only remember a few things very vividly, so I may only publish a memory once every two weeks. In between that time, however, I will try to post something unrelated to my memories. It might be personal thoughts, opinions, or ideas. I will try at least once a week to update something. Since it is Monday night, I plan to bring something to this blog on a Monday before I sleep.