Wednesday, January 30, 2008


There is a saying, "Houseguests and fish stink after three days", and that was how I felt after staying (sleeping on the pull-out sofa) at my brother's house last Christmas. I am sure it was not too pleasant for my brother and everyone else in the house either. The day after Christmas, my husband was sick with a cold (mainly coughing and running nose). The pull-out sofa in the living room was comfortable but not for resting during the day when there were activities and people walking around. I did not get much sleep at night because of the coughing, and to make matter worse, each morning, my mother would be in the kitchen, next to the living room, re-arranging pots and pans, then the whistle sound from the pot of boiling water as my mother made a fresh pot of tea and packed lunch for my brother.

Later while my husband rested in my mother's room (after she insisted that he should), my mother would comment about her back pain or feeling weak from not being able to have her afternoon rest!

After the third day, one early morning I decided to get out of the house and went for a walk. It was raining and very windy but I needed some fresh air and just being by myself. I went to an Italian bakery shop at the corner. With a cup of coffee and a blueberry donut, I sat and listened to a conversation of three old men sitting at a nearby table. I could not understand what topics they were discussing. All I heard was "Forget about it" in English and "Mama Mia" with the rest of the conversation in Italian.

Perhaps I finally recognized that I can't go home again, just like the character of George Webber in the novel by Thomas Wolfe. I began to see New York City through the eyes of a visitor. Like a typical tourist, I took the photo above showing the Chrysler building and the flag of New York Public Library. Or the sign below showing the subway trains which I never paid much attention since I was too busy and too tired from rushing to work, to school and coming home at night. It has been more than 19 years since I moved away. New York was a chapter of the beginning of my new life in America and where I learned about love, hope and sorrow with the passing of my father. Leaving New York was the beginning of another new life, leading to the larger paths to the world beyond tall buildings, the subways and crowded living space.

The #7 Flushing line carried me for many years of living in NYC, from Elmhurst, to LaGuardia Community College, then to Hunter College, to my job as data entry operator at CIT and later with the insurance company at 666 Fifth Avenue. The Queens Center shopping mall where I used to go shopping had undergone major renovations. According to my brother, it is larger and completely different that I would not recognize the place.

We walked around Flushing while waiting to meet up with my friend, MW and her family for dinner. The last 10 years, Flushing has been flourished with Asian businesses and became a second Chinatown. Unlike Canal street in the other Chinatown in lower Manhattan, Main street in Flushing provided more walking space, crowded yet less suffocating. We went to a Thai restaurant for dinner. As I watched MW and her husband, KL, their 19-year old daughter and 15-year old son, I imagined that could be my own family. I often wonder whether I would be happy with a Chinese husband, fulfilled my duty providing grandchildren to my parents. Would I be happier living near my family, seeing them on the weekends, sharing holidays, birthday celebrations and being of help to my family that a good daughter/sister supposed to be?

The above photo is a view from the rooftop in my sister's building. On a clear day, you could see Statue of Liberty and all the famous buildings in lower Manhattan. My husband looked forward to watching the fireworks on New Year Eve but the building management people decided that the rooftop was off-limit as it was not safe to have too many people up there (drinking while celebrating the New Year). I took the photo below when we stopped by Owl's Head Pier. It was very cold and windy that day. My brother dressed up as Santa Clause and he received various comments from typical holiday greetings to a kid saying, "I know he is not the real Santa", to which VL responded, "No presents for you, young man".

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