Growing up, my parents and I went back to my mother’s homeland every 4 years or so. Just getting there took almost a full day, as we flew from from city to city across the globe. Houston to Taipei by way of Los Angeles, Tokyo, or Seattle. One of these times, I found myself facing a 14-hour flight with nothing to read. I had either forgotten my book at home, or else finished it during the first leg of our travels. Either way, I needed another, so my mother took me to quickly raid the nearest airport shop before it was time to board.
In those days, your cell phone (if you had one) could not tell you what the Amazon or GoodReads reviews were. You just looked at covers, read some jacket copy, and bought the book that sounded the most interesting to you. Crazy, but it worked.
I ended up with MONSOON by Wilbur Smith, an epic story of 3 brothers in the 19th century, spanning from England to Africa to the Middle East, full of sailing, warfare, and sex. It was unlike anything I had ever read before, and I tucked into my window seat and blazed through it nonstop. By the time I finished the 800 or so pages (mass market paperback) we were halfway across the Pacific. Though only hours had passed, I felt older and wiser by years, and excited but weary from battling pirates on the high seas and racing camels across the desert.
I don’t remember anything else about that flight, but I still keep MONSOON by my bed at my parents’ house, so I can relive those adventures time and time again.
Want to share your memories of summertime reading? Email me with brief anecdotes, or post on your own blog and then send me a link, and I’ll publish a roundup!
I was born in America to a Taiwanese mother and a Caucasian father. I grew up with three other “halfie” friends, their mothers also immigrants (former classmates of my mom’s) and their fathers white men from this country, just like mine. Three boys and me, only two of them brothers, but all of us family in those days.
To me, this was the norm. Mixed race families, with mixed race kids. Even my other best friends were girls with brown hair and brown eyes, so I kind of assumed they were halfies too. Or rather, I didn’t really question what they were — didn’t see them as being different than me — because it didn’t matter.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized a family like mine wasn’t necessarily the norm. That mixed race marriages were not only uncommon in this country until the late 20th century, but also illegal in most states until the Supreme Court invalidated those laws.
That landmark case, Loving vs. Virginia, was decided on June 12, 1967. So today I’m celebrating 46 years of my family being allowed to exist — and hoping for a future full of more loving marriages, between whatever races, genders, backgrounds, and beliefs there may be.
Note: I was inspired to write this post after hearing about this adorable Cheerios ad, and the unfortunate backlash against it.
As a child, I loved seed packets. The interesting names, like calendula and alyssum. The colorful illustrations. The promise held within. Each packet contained tiny kernels of life, just sleeping, waiting for me to wake them up. It sounded like magic.
I remember going into a greenhouse one afternoon with my mother when I was 7 or 8. We had recently moved to a new house, and I had staked out a small plot in the “backyard” for a garden. (The previous owner was a single man who wanted nothing to do with yard work, so he had bricked over almost all of the property.) When we got home, I ran to the backyard with a trowel and a watering can and my precious seed packets in hand. Falling to my knees, I dug a neat grid of holes, dropped the “baby plants” in, covered them with soil, and watered the ground liberally, lovingly.
I watered again the next day. And the next. And the next. After a week, my mom asked how they were doing. I pouted and said that I couldn’t see anything yet. She assured me that this was normal and encouraged me to keep going. If I watered those seeds with patience and diligence, then they would surely grow.
So I tried, I really did. But after another few days, it became more fun to imagine the garden than to actually take care of it. I pictured the sprouts turning into stems, turning into buds, turning into soft bright petals. I pictured gorgeous arrangements of my very own flowers, and dinners made with vegetables I had grown. I thought about how proud my parents would be, about the compliments I would receive from friends.
But because I spent more time imagining and less time watering, the dirt never yielded anything more than a sickly shoot or two, and eventually I gave up on my garden.
Another thing I loved as a child was sponge animals — the kind that come in little plastic pills that dissolve when you submerge them in water. Heck, even as an adult, I love the instant gratification of watching something morph before my eyes. Red pill into pterodactyl. Yellow pill into octopus. Green pill into elephant. Blue pill into dragon.
Unfortunately, writing is not like sponge animals. Writing is a garden. And water is not a one-time magical transformation, but rather an unending discipline. Progress will not be seen in a matter of minutes, but rather over the course of weeks, months, and years.
I never have managed to grow flowers or vegetables, but I believe in the words that I have planted. After years of watering, they are sprouting through the earth. They are reaching for the sun. Some may seem sickly, but others are strong, and I will water them all until they can grow no more. Then, when they are fully blossomed and fragrant, I will snip a few to share, snip a few for myself, and snip the rest to graft. This garden will make the next one stronger. So on and so forth, till the end of time.
Meanwhile, my sponge animals will sit in the back of a bathroom drawer. Colorful and fun at first, they will turn flimsy and dry. Yes, they change quickly, but they become obsolete just as fast. They are a kind of fun that doesn’t last.
Don’t get me wrong: There is a special place in my heart for the whimsy of sponge animals, and for the eager child that I once was. But for my life’s work, I choose a garden — and the purposeful, unwavering grownup that I can become.
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