25 tagged with #family

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earthsaver's club


they said, 'you can't fault someone for wanting to live a comfortable life,' defensively, in the middle of a discussion about our individual responsibilities as human participants in a system contributing to disproportionate damages to the world and its inhabitants.

no, i can't fault you for that. i can't fault your desires that come from expectations you've learned from your environment, from your baked in habits about how to live, from your assumed rights and powers. these are, of course, things outside your control.

but i can certainly fault you for decisions you make in spite of your knowledge, decisions you make to choose immediate convenience at the price of delayed, detached destruction. i can fault you for not even trying, i can fault you for making excuses for trying, i can fault you for refusing to move past denial.

and i can wait for you to break free from this trap so we can all move forward.

'you know,' my mother suggested casually, 'there are lots of groceries you can buy online fairly cheaply, and even places with free shipping.'

'oh, i can't really justify spending the gasoline on that if i can get it from the corner shop, mom.'

'no seriously, though, free shipping.'

'it might be free for my pocket, but it's fuel from, you know, the planet. everyone's planet. but if the gas has already been spent to move it to the shop, and i'm perfectly capable of walking down to the shop to pick it up, i'd rather not have it driven directly to my doorstep.'

'oh. oh! you're saving the planet! okay, i get you.'

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24 April 2018 22:56


life goals


occasionally, my father tells me about someone else in his table tennis club celebrating an 80+ birthday. i've met some of them; they slide slowly to the table, moving in the cautious way of elderly folks who know what a fall might do to them. with a paddle in hand, they still seem so gentle on themselves in directing their body into the right position, but at the last moment, a snap that i can't see catches the ball, which flies viciously in low, precise arcs further than i can reach. and then i realize that they're not truly moving in slow motion; they can keep up with the rapid volleys the teenagers throw at them, punishing sloppy recoveries by dropping a ball into a dead spot.

i tell my parents, who occasionally express conviction that their lives are over and they need to start conserving what body parts they have left, that it is possible to remain mobile and responsive and active until the moment they die. that's what i'm aiming for, at least.

nearly every time i go on a hike, no matter how hard or how punishing i think it is, i'll get passed by someone my parents age, breezing through without a bead of sweat. i don't understand it, and i can't wait to get there.

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12 April 2018 22:08


an egg


(note: this entry mentions animal death.)

when i was a kid, my mother extracted a robin's egg from its nest and handed it to me, telling me to show my father. i ran to him and opened my hand, but only found crumpled shell pieces and an incomplete bird stuck to my palm.

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01 April 2018 00:37


troublemakers


the family housing block always fell silent for a few hours after lunch; during the hot beijing summer, afternoon naps helped pass the roughest time of day, leaving more energy for activities after sunset.

but i wasn't accustomed to daily naptime, and neither was the other us-raised kid visiting her grandparents on the ground floor of our apartment stack. so when everyone fell asleep, we met in the courtyard, tiptoeing and whispering once we learned how much sound carried.

the empty lot next to our building held a stack of coal two stories high; all through the year, a few cartloads at a time would be added for the winter stash. we were strictly banned from playing in it, so of course we did, carefully walking up the sides without stirring up black dust onto our clothes. later, we'd rinse our legs and hands and wipe smudges off our faces.

what i didn't notice, though, was that the coal dust worked its way into my sandals, coating the bottoms of my feet so i'd carelessly leave black footprints in the entryway between changing my sandals for house slippers. of course i'd get scolded, of course they'd call my mother back in new jersey and tell her what i got up to when everyone was asleep.

there were some things they didn't report home, though; the times i'd ride on the back of my aunt's bicycle when she'd drop me off at my wushu lessons on the other side of campus, or the time she let me take her motorcycle around the block for laughs, or the times the other american kid and i confessed to missing lunch because we had snuck into the undergraduate dorms to hang out with college kids.

i can't imagine what i would have done in college if a couple of fifth graders caught a door wedged open for the smokers and casually walked into the first room occupied by people having a good time.

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17 March 2018 15:31


sand


my mother tells this story to anyone who hasn't heard it. at age eleven, we stepped out of the beijing international airport, and i screamed, dropping the handle of my suitcase to whip my hands over my face.

'what is this? what's this stuff getting into my eyes? i can't see!'

my aunts and uncles who came out to meet me for the first time, they laughed. 'is this what an american is? it's just wind, child.'

i remember a dry heat blasting me, sand that the wind dragged across the continent burrowing relentlessly against my skin. everything sought water, the moisture of my breath, my mouth, my eyelids; dry things stuck to wet things. that's how it worked. i put on sunglasses. decades later, i'd learn about desertification, china's massive terraforming projects that drained rivers and crumbled landscapes. later, i'd stand on a spit of land protruding from the empty quarter, marveling at how it could be simultaneously humid from the arabian sea and arid from a chalky earth that resisted water.

my mother, who grew up between the dirty dense crush of humanity within beijing's walls and the desolate northern steppes, still laughs when she tells this story to her friends, of a child she raised in a land so lush and clean that being blinded by a summer windstorm caused an existential crisis.

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16 March 2018 20:02


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