Coffee cake & tea

It has not yet been a full 24 hours since I reached my destination: Dorset. ‘Just’ Dorset of the hay stacks and fields, verdant narrow lanes, brick houses and 13th century churches. Just Dorset where most strangers and even more of them with dogs say hello as you pass them by. It’s the countryside that my grandmother loves.

How was the flight? She inquired. My parents got lucky with a business class upgrade. When my mum whispered it to me, I’d rejoiced thinking we’d all gotten it. The trick is to purchase Premium Economy tickets, be the latest in line, a professor, and a beloved frequent flyer. Dad offered to switch places with me but when he came to check up on me midway through the flight, I was eating my black bean chicken and rice, refreshed from the best sleep I’d had on a plane since I was small enough to lay my head on mum’s lap. Neck strain was something I grew into. Vomiting was something I seem to have grown out of. I had claimed the two vacant seats beside me, which spanned my whole left side when I bent my knees slightly. THANK YOU GOD! I kept smiling to myself. It was, dare I say it, an enjoyable flight. I caught in the reflection of my screen the handsome dad behind me,  entertained by his beautiful green-eyed daughter. She was the kind of child to point at the horse-racing on tv in the immigration line and shout excitedly about the beams. “That’s like the one you rode right, daddy! Is he galloping or trotting?” “Yes, yes it was”, the dad mumbled distractedly as he typed on his phone. I wondered where the mum was.

I felt a strange pride when the immigration lady checked our passports and examined us, one by one. I love identifying the resemblances between family members. Yes, I am quite obviously the product of an Englishman and a Chinese woman. Sitting across from my parents at lunch, I realised that I have mum’s cheekbones, my sister dad’s eyebrows. And again on the taxi in the periods of quiet between the driver cursing the traffic, I felt that strange pride as my parents spoke to one another in Chinglish; English with Chinese stripes or Chinese with English stripes? Once, I asked my mum if daddy organised trips and managed finances too. She said: “we do different things”. I sat between them, a symbol of their complements.

When grandma showed me to my room, formerly her study, I saw that the walls were adorned with pictures of my family. My first day of school in a plum dress and a hat. Pictures of when I looked like a boy. My brother in a tub, my sister in a cable car. We occupy the corners of bathrooms; we are everywhere. We grandchildren are thought of often.

Today, she looked at me as I sat by the window reading a new book. She came to me silently and bent down to give me a hug, just because.

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