Sometimes a couple of random words or even a few sentences in my thought processing stay with me for a few moments and I feel the need to jot them down, just in case I might want to use them for future writing. It’s not in any organized fashion, no special journal, or even a specified notebook. I scribble the words down on whatever I can quickly find – a back of a utility bill envelope, the perforated cardboard from a box of tissues I just opened, or just a scrap of paper. Then I tuck the piece of writing into a large manila envelope. Occasionally I’ll go through the jumble of writing, I toss out only what I have used in my writing. Of course over the years, I have amassed many such envelopes. Indeed, I am my mother’s daughter in more ways than one.
My job of sorting Mom’s papers continues, but it has now become more than her historic notes and records. She saved everything, and I mean everything. I have come across every art project my siblings and I made from the time we could hold a crayon until we entered college. I found our first baby shoes and our baby teeth. There is just So. Much. Stuff.
Last week it became too mentally and emotionally taxing for me to explore more cupboards and closets. I decided to take a break from sorting Mom and Dad’s things, but I still wanted to feel useful. I decided to organize my own paperwork.
I picked up one of the “random words” envelopes. The first few didn’t have any sizzle for me, but then I pulled out a half sheet of paper on which I’d scribbled: “Honoring tribe and karma. Took on the whole heritage, restaurant, and China Alley, but when you transition out of time, many years from now, maybe your soul will let you know.”
I had no memory of this writing, but I certainly still felt its emotion and relevance. It was time for me to contemplate in China Alley.
I circled the Alley slowly, pausing only to look up at the second story where Great-grandfather’s noodle house was located, and continued until I stopped at the Taoist Temple Museum. The raw grief that has hovered over the Alley every day since the night of the May 12th arson is slowly easing. The buildings’ spirits are healing.
Earlier this week the China Alley Preservation Society had begun the process of removing the artifacts that will be restored by professional conservators. I thought of Evelyn Hang Yin’s photograph that depicts the upstairs of the Museum in the 1880s, 2020, and May 12, 2021. Someday, we will have a bright new photo, a conserved Temple Museum. For now, it feels good to see the restoration move forward.
Little by little, the pieces of my heart that were shattered this year are mending. I’m starting to find the yin-yang balance in the places I love. I trust more. I worry less. I’m still feeling the pain of this year’s losses, but I know, truly, only love heals, even in the overwhelming way Mom stockpiled it. In China Alley, it’s all about love. What has been, what is, and what will be.
The soul knows.
This week I’m sharing a recipe for one of my favorite dim sum dishes, finding comfort in traditional foods my family shared.
Dim sum is a large range of small Chinese dishes that are traditionally enjoyed in restaurants (previously tea houses) for breakfast and lunch, all though I eat dim sum at any time. Many dim sum dishes involve my favorite foods, including dumplings, rice noodles, and stuffed buns.
“Gnaw Mai Faan,” sticky rice with Chinese sausage, is a dim sum favorite. It is also very good to use for stuffing turkey, chicken, and Cornish game hen. Auntie Emma often prepared it when our tribe gathered for Thanksgiving.
If you can’t find Chinese sausage, there really isn’t another sausage suitable to replace it. Chinese barbecued pork will provided a similar taste and can be purchased from Chinese restaurants. Sticky rice, is also known as “sweet rice” or “glutinous rice.”
Loosely translated, dim sum means “piece of the heart.” Enjoy.