Essays

Residential Dispatch
CityArts
At the end of June, my landlord was touching up a water stain on the living room ceiling of my Ballard apartment when he casually dropped a bomb: He’d be selling the apartment building where we’ve lived since 2012. He said that another apartment building of his in Northgate had sold to investors within days of placing it on the market…

 

I Owed My Parents Everything – But My Son Will Owe Me Nothing
YES! Magazine
I was never fully aware of my parents’ debt until having to apply for college financial aid. Poring over the universal financial aid application, I read my father a series of almost clinical questions about our family’s debt, income, and savings…

 

No Need for Words
Tricycle

Several weeks ago, in the middle of having his diaper changed, my son peered up at me and spoke his first two-syllable word: butter. My husband Kort still asleep in bed, I wondered whether the boy had uttered the brief sound or my imagination had merely conjured it. Standard early-morning mental fuzz could not account for this self-doubt; it sprang from a deep longing, ever since the day of my son’s birth, for him to speak in familiar language …

 

Trying Not To Itch
Tricycle

Three days into a weeklong Vipassana retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, just north of San Francisco, California, I notice myself itching, unbearably. I’m not the only person distracted by the desire to scratch. Someone else leaves a handwritten note on the staff bulletin board confessing discomfort. The senior teacher responds by devoting an entire dharma session to “the itch,” the gist of which amounts to the following: observe the body’s suffering and let it go. The aching knee, the tickle in the back of the throat—just sensory experiences. Name, but refrain from scratching at all costs …

 

Tablets
Poor Yorick

The wooden ancestor tablet presiding over my fourth uncle’s ancestral altar tells the complete history of my father’s family—a history that I didn’t discover until my mid-twenties …

 

When to Speak, When to Listen
ParentMap

My relationship with my Taiwanese immigrant mother, Noko, has always been mediated by my father. Separated by cultural and language differences, my dad kept us apart by making us depend upon him as our translator, cementing his importance in our lives by putting himself at the center. When my son, Tomo, was born last year, I asked Noko to stay with me to assist me in my transition to becoming a mom …

 

Water Returning to Water
ParentMap

Visiting my neighbor Kanjin’s home last March, I noticed a small figure installed on his altar, surrounded by colorful toys and candy. When I asked, he explained the sweets on his shrine were offerings to Jizo — Buddhist guardian of lost children. The conversation blossomed into a longer talk about mizuko kuyo, a ritual that he occasionally performs as the head priest of a Buddhist temple in Seattle. The “water baby” ceremony, which originated in Japan, is performed to support parents who have lost children to tragedy and miscarriage. It allows them the opportunity to give birth to, bond with, and lay the spirit of their unborn child to rest through an act of imagining. A single wave form returns to the ocean from whence it was born — water returning to water …

 

Eating Hot Pot With My Father
Medium

“I thought jie jie was a vegetarian,” I whisper to my father. My cousin insists on treating her parents, my father, and me to a Japanese hot pot dinner to celebrate our return to Nantou. She takes charge with the waitress, ordering platters of seafood, razor-thin cuts of lamb, sirloin, and pork. Earlier that day, much had been made of her vegetarian bargain with the Buddha …