1000 a Day – Day 14

Some short memories that occurred in the immediate bit of time after I arrived in the States:

I remember it taking a while for me to get over the jet lag. I’d sleep at weird hours during the day and be awake at odd hours during the night. My father was working a lot of overtime back then, he’s actually always worked a lot of overtime in whatever job he was doing, and he’d be up and awake right along with me in the middle of the night, working away in front of the computer. I remember once I was playing on the carpet behind him, sitting down. I had these wonderfully detailed miniature metal tanks that I was playing with, leaning over them, staging epic battles on that field of beige.

I remember my mother and father getting into fights, usually about things that I didn’t understand. They’d shout at each other in the living room, scream, and my mother would run off to the bedroom in the back. Once, after a particularly bad fight, my father walked me to the backroom to see her and there she was, lying face down on the bed, crying. We stood in the doorway in silence until my father broke it and told me that it was my fault she was crying.

Right around the beginning, it was very important for me to learn English. In the Fall I was expected to start attending school, first grade I believe, and it was vital that I be able to communicate with my fellow students and teachers. My parents stopped speaking to me in Chinese very early on, and I must say I actually picked English up rather quickly. What this meant though, was that I actually found Chinese to be something I’d rather not say. All through my life since then I’ve found the language to sound abrasive, harsh, and by far too loud; I didn’t like the way it sounded. Of course this has changed lots now that I’m back in China and actually speaking it again myself, and I wish that I hadn’t forgotten as much as I had, or rather I wished I had learned more while young, but that’s a separate issue. I may have a greater appreciation for it, even a liking if I dare say, but in those early days, and the many years that followed actually, I wouldn’t for the life of me speak it, and when insisted upon, I felt very embarrassed, almost ashamed at having uttered it.

My mother was still attending school at that time, earning her Masters. This meant that she also had an apartment on campus. I remember going there for the first time, on the West side of Los Angeles. It looked like any other apartment complex in the area, quite indiscernible really. I remember walking in the front door to her building, a skinny thing with a handful of floors, and being overwhelmed by the smell of it. I couldn’t place it, and still can’t to this day, but it was foul. A sort of sour, musky, herbal scent that one could almost taste. My mother didn’t seem to notice it, so being a good little boy I didn’t bring up how bad it smelled. And this was just in the hall way, so hardly an issue, and we were just there to get her mail that first time, and wouldn’t be staying long. Come to think of it, I’ve never said anything about it until now even.

As I said earlier I was starting school in the Fall. At first I attended the local public school that was in my district. The first day school started, I had no idea here I was going or what was going on. As far as I knew, I was just in the back of my father’s car, being driven to some place like I normally was. Speaking of cars, I think I mentioned that it was a sky blue Subaru, my most favorite car of all time. It’s always held a special place in my heart being the first car I’ve ever been in while in the States. I cried when we had to get rid of it, but that memory will come later. I bring it up now because my parents had another car before I arrived, a beat up old 1980s Volkswagon Rabbit. It was a hatchback and the air conditioner didn’t work, so during the summer months you had to roll all the windows down or you’d be smother to death by the heat and when driving on the freeways you had to turn the radio up as high as it would go to be heard over the roaring wind. It was decided that such a car wouldn’t be suitable for me, so they got the new one, making it that much more special as it was bought specifically because of me. I remember years later being in a car very much like that very first car, the Rabbit, and being told this story. I remember thinking that the Rabbit held a lot of character as well. But actually the point of this paragraph is my first day of school, which I wasn’t told was the first day, and when my parents dropped me off at this wholly unfamiliar place and started driving off without me, I chased after them down the school driveway, crying, stopping only when I realized I’d never catch up to them as I watched them drive down the road.

A member of the school staff came and fetched me out of the road and explained to me what was going on later, that I was starting school.

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