Dear Ethan and Maya,
This month, my mother and one of her sisters came to visit us from Hong Kong. How exhausting it is for them to fly way too many hours to just being tortured by you both. THEY ENJOYED IT.
My mother had never known what life was like for you in Canada. When she found out that, Ethan, all you do all day in school is to splash water, shovel sand, splatter colors to create mess on your body, but not being lectured to secure a seat in Harvard, she was amazed. Yet she also thought it’s necessary to initiate home-schooling. So she came with tons of Chinese storybooks and determined to bring on a crash training for you.
And oh, how ashamed it was for me as a parent to realize how fascinated you were by learning those square-box characters! Every morning, the first thing you wanted to do was to take your 400 Chinese storybooks to your grandmother’s room, and asked her to read them to you. You demanded to carry your books around. You begged us to let you sleep with them, and when you woke up not seeing your books around, you screamed MY BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOK like some growling alien trying to tear its way out of your chest. Some of those books were the ones that you can practice writing Chinese. The first time your grandmother held your hand and walked you through how to write a Chinese character, you went ballistic! The success emerged on your face was singing People’s Republic of China Anthem. And all the time you asked her to write with you. ALL THE TIME. When she’s busy cooking, she would be all OKAY. You woke up at 4am and ran to her room with a pencil, OKAY. When she’s taking a dump, and you crushed in the bathroom because she didn’t lock the door, she’s all OKAY. One morning I walked in the kitchen to the cheers and excitement as you had managed to write a Chinese character ON YOUR OWN, your crazily proud grandmother said to me, “Maybe you should consider moving back to Hong Kong. Apparently he learns better when I am around because he loves me more than you.”
We were obliged to go out EVERYDAY when your grandmother was here, just because the house was too quiet for her. How could she survive listening to air wandering through air all the time? Wait, there’s nothing to listen to, except your begging to go out. And Maya, you know what, we have to avoid saying GOING OUT at all. Whenever you hear OUT or SHOPPING or PARK or you realize that we haven’t gone out for the past 15 minutes, you will mechanically run to your room and try to put on your socks, or you will run to the backyard windows pointing at the shoes parking outside saying SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOE. And how perfect was that when your grandmother was so ready to help you out.
We went out EVERY DAY. And Maya, this has simply brought out the friendly and sociable side of your personality. You love to greet. You say hi to every stranger around you at least three times. And if they aren’t nice enough to reply you, you will bend your neck to look them in the eyes with a very loud HIIIIIIIIIIIII, like Can’t you hear me, son of the bitch? When you come across with other kids, all you want is to inspect them, touching their hair, poking their face and approaching their food. When you are at the park, you have no fear. You are ready to climb up the tallest slide that when we are trying to help, you will shove us off and spazz you way up, gleefully zoom down the one with the biggest curves. One time you were puzzled being trapped at the bottom of a climbing net. A teenage girl came by moving her way up with her limbs. All along you were staring mouth agape at her advanced skill, ready to lift up your leg and go up to the sky.
Again, the only reason for your grandmother to fly all the way to here was to see us. Seriously, she will never remember that epic roadtrip if you weren’t part of it. During her stay, she’s either busy cooking your favorite food or just watching you both. Everything you did was fascinating. She loves that when either of you pick your nose and point that finger to her, then she would Ewwwwwwwwwwww turning her face around, and it would make you so happy. In fact, we play nose-picking game with you all the time simply because we have no idea how to stop you doing this. And last time when your grandmother went so excited seeing you take this game to a new level – Ethan, you picked your nose and pointed that finger to Maya’s readily wide-open mouth, I knew that we had to end this with something more fun, like scratching your butt. Maybe.
What she enjoyed the most was to hear you calling her POPO. I know that she put me back in her will when she realized that I had you both. Now in order for me to inherit the 6000 Chinese books that she keeps in Hong Kong, I have to train you up to say POPO 900 times without breathing in our next phone call.
Ethan, anytime you called her POPO before you even mentioned the thing you wanted, she would be all ready to give it to you. And Maya, although you took a few days to warm up and get close to her, the very first time you uttered POPO and threw your body to her embracing arms, she could barely breathe! It was one of those moments in her life that freezes in time because what she heard was just erupting her ear and she couldn’t believe it. For a few minutes that morning the love and excitement in the room almost blew the door off its hinges.
What I’m trying to say is, I appreciate my mother to take the effort to fly over despite how much she hates flying. She never complained. She truly enjoyed her stay here every single moment. Going back, when she was asked about this trip, instead of lamenting the fact that damn, Canada is so boring, so very very boring, I could only hear air flying in the house, BLAH BLAH BLAH, I’m sure she would say, “I was teaching my 3-year-old grandchild Chinese everyday. And my younger grand-daughter calls me POPO now. I never knew that word could be so amazing.”
“And my daughter, she is a great mother.”