I Miss Sweet Potatoes

Reaching over, the parents handed steaming hot, half peeled sweet potatoes to their children. One for each.  Their kids, actually, growing teenagers, grabbed the sweet potatoes with huge smiles and bit into them, steam hitting their faces.

“Wah! I really miss sweet potatoes!” I declared, watching that TV scene. It reminded me so much of my family. “Did you ever eat sweet potatoes with your parents growing up?” I nudged my husband.

“Huh? No,” he continued reading. He didn’t bother looking up from his book, sitting beside me as I watched a Kdrama.

“Ahhh… but I love sweet potatoes,” I sighed.

Growing up, Continue reading

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A Beautifully Painful Mess

IMG_5755

The Ruins of Rome. Summer 2014.

Strange. The door was ajar, a moment ago. I knocked, then pushed it open.

I had expected my patient to be on the phone. Instead, she sat on the exam table, her young daughter standing at her side. The little girl’s left hand wrapped the blood pressure cuff over her mom’s arm, and the other hand squeezed the inflation bulb.  Startled by my interruption, she hurriedly put the cuff away.

“When you grow up, do you want to be a doctor or nurse?” I smiled, reaching for a pair of gloves.

“A nurse,” she replied. Continue reading

Autumn’s Concierto

IMG_2078It’s supposed to snow tomorrow, but oh, how I have autumn written on my heart! Christmas just passed, and autumn has come and long gone, yet I never had a chance to write about it.

This year was the first time I realized that autumn has its own soundtrack.  During my lunch breaks, I circled around the park, listening to the seasons change. When the wind blew, I imagined a conductor lifting his arms, inhaling with a large gesture, and signaling the orchestra to play. There was a dissonance, as the wind carried certain branches in one direction, and other branches in an opposing direction- they were flutes, clarinets, oboes, playing different notes on a minor chord. Then when the conductor cued all the leaves, collectively, to play at the same time, the rustling was like the string section of an orchestra. The violins played a somber melody. (Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks autumn sounds like violins, so did this famous French poet!) When the wind rushed quickly past my ears, I heard ringing like the hollow sounds of a vibraphone. Continue reading

Six Precious Words

you never know what comes through that door... (photo from Italy, 2014)

you never know what will come through that door…
(photo from Italy, 2014)

A knock on the door interrupted my lunch.

“Soapie? They’re calling downstairs. Someone can’t breathe.”

Standing up, I swallowed my last bite then flew down the stairs.

Sweat dripped down his pale face. His chest heaved up and down, as if he were struggling to carry a boulder in his arms. Continue reading

The Definition of Home

the definition of home

my students leaping with joy

Waiting at the gate to board, I searched for my boarding pass. My hand brushed against a Ziploc bag.

Fresh coconut slices.

I held the bag in my hands. It was a bit of a nuisance; if the juice leaked from the bag, it would soak my journal, laptop, chargers, and travel pillow. My backpack was already cramped.

But Ba had insisted.

~ ~ ~

Before coming to the airport, Ba stood in the kitchen, holding a fresh coconut.

“We have fresh coconuts?!” I asked, a bit bewildered.

“It’s for you, កូន (daughter), drink the juice,” Ba grabbed a mini axe, the size of a butcher knife, then hacked away at the head of coconut. He flipped the coconut upside down and drained the clear coconut juice into a tall glass. He carved the pearly, white flesh out into thin slivers, and packed them into a ziploc.

“Drink.” He pointed to the glass. “For the plane ride.” He handed me the bag.

It was a short trip home, and I didn’t get to spend as much time with my parents as I had wanted. Actually, I spent the least time with Ba. It was the weekend before Father’s Day, and I was not able to stay another week to celebrate Father’s Day with him either.

Yet he continued to care for me, in the best way he knew how.

Food. Continue reading

Thawing at the Moon’s Feet

A frozen Charles River, thawing at the moon's feet...

A frozen Charles River

The city skyline twinkled in the deep, dark night. Its light reflected upon the icy waters of the Atlantic.

En route to work, my car scurried around snowbanks from February’s fury. I rushed into the hospital to receive handoff from the off going nurse.

“He’s very fascinating, if you get a chance to chat with him,” my co-nurse reported during shift change. “But the main thing is to watch his breathing. And his wound.”

I scribbled notes and stuffed them into my pocket. “Got it.”

~ ~ ~

His gray hair seemed like it had just been combed. He leaned against a stack of pillows. His skin and lips were pink; his breathing fine. He gave a gentle nod. “Hello.”

I checked his vital signs. “How are you feeling? Any pain?”

“Actually…” he hesitated. Continue reading