We spent several summers in Taiwan while growing up, splitting time between Taipei, where Mom’s sister worked, and Yuanlin, where Mom’s parents lived in a typical multi-story apartment with balconies for dangling laundry, courtyards for storing useful-ish junk, and a kitchen for housing mini lemon ice creams, which I swiped pretty often.
Some days, we’d visit tourist spots like Taroko National Park, Xitou Nature Education Area, or the Aboriginal Culture Village. Xitou was my favorite, with cool, shady paths leading through bamboo, ginkgos and green ponds. At the forest’s exit, peddlers sold carved wooden animals with toothpick-holding pockets - useful for the nightly de-vegetableing of your teeth.
Ginkgo leaves remind me of Xitou, Mom, and summers in Taiwan.
Two orange tabby brothers followed us home in December. They lived with us for five weeks, snuggling, wrestling, running around like madmen and punching each other in the face, until their owners saw our “found” signs (which had been posted in front of their house for weeks).
Chupa misses them a ton. They shredded furniture, ate Kolinsky brushes and laptop screens, farted intense farts on our laps, pawed wet paintings and shoved my brush around whenever I painted, but they were cute and soft fuzzballs.
Several years ago, Mom and I visited Japan during cherry blossom season. While there, Mom found out that her mom had cancer and was awaiting surgery in the hospital.
That night, Mom lay on the bed in our room at the ryokan. “Emmie, my mom is sick . . . what if I lose her?” she asked.
I tried to think of something kind and comforting to say.“Well, she is 86,” I said.