Category Archives: Inside the Migrant’s Mind – Poetry and Love

My Colonial Name is ‘Will’ – Here’s the Story of My Other Name ‘Wei’

“It’s Not What They Call You, It’s What You Answer To” –  ascribed to comedian W.C. Fields (but I received this teaching through an April Ryan talk, March 2019, Harlem)

The Story of My Many Name Changes

I have been through a few name changes in my life.

I was born Wei Tao. Later in elementary school at my insistence (the product of trying to fit in/bullying, and apparently too many “hi wei/highway” jokes) I asked my parents to legally change it to Wei William Tao. Sometime in late high school/early university, I replaced William (which I found too British and formal) with Will – the short, cooler, ‘One Tree Hill’ version of myself.

Recently ‘names’ and ‘naming’ have come up a lot in my practice and in my life.

The past two weeks I have been working on a file where an individual from overseas is seeking to change their name with immigration due to a change of practice from their home country.

I have had another very close friend have challenges changing their maiden name.

I also have found myself looking at political campaign signs over the past elections wondering why certain individuals emphasize their first name over their last, or how someone could have an anglicized Chinese name. I wonder about white people individuals adopting Chinese names with so much meaning and power, without acknowledging their erasure of our own names and languages.

For example, the history of how Chinese surnames were anglicized is rift with discrimination and hate, yet today people from ethnic communities might see the whitening of surnames as a privilege. The assigning of biblical names was also a huge part of the residential school genocide (see here for an excellent article from 2016 by Maija Kappler on indigenous name reclamation).

Finally, just last week a group of community organizers and I had a discussion where we talked about our names. Again, it was almost an after thought. We were all about to head out, just doing last minute small talk about various race equity topics when an individual I admire and consider a mentor and leader stated “one thing we haven’t talked about are the names we ascribe ourselves.”

My Chinese Name – “Wei”

I was recently at a workshop/retreat where I was prepared to introduce my name as “Will.” The first person to introduce her name, a Chinese Canadian woman, introduced not only her English name but also her Chinese name and talked about the meaning of that name in relation to an ancestral relative. Had it known been for her braveness in bringing her birth name into the space, I would not have as well. I didn’t do a great job in describing why that name is so important to me. I wish to do so here.

I have a beautiful Chinese name. Wei (维) is the first part of Wei Duo Li Ya (维多利亚) which means the Vic in Victoria. I was born in Victoria – my name means the land where I came into this world. Will (other than the cheesy saying ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’) has literally no meaning to me. My birth name has a meaning subscribed to the struggle my parents went through as early migrants, facing overt racism, struggling up Mount Tolmie to support the family. Even through all this hardship and struggle they wanted me to adopt the physical space/place in which it was happening.

By abandoning my name “Wei” have I abandoned those stories and erased them from my being and my family’s collective memory?

Out of every one in my family I was the only one to primarily stick with his adopted white name. For me, there was always this fear and concern that if my name was seen as Wei Tao there would be assumptions of me being an immigrant, a newcomer, and someone without language skills.

The last time I heard “Wei Tao” was a few years ago at a university alumni event. The name tag had Wei Tao and I distinctly remember scribbling Will over top of it in Sharpie Pen. I had apparently won a raffle in which they called out “Wei Tao” and it took me twenty seconds to realize that it was actually me. Needless to say they almost pulled a new name out of the hat before I stood up to claim my prize.

My Legal Name vs. My Given Name – and the Legal Profession

As a lawyer, there are many moments that make you pause and think. Generally this is a good thing when you are in this profession. For me, this occ every time when I am writing or signing my name on documents. Right now, the rule I apply is when i am required to put my legal name (i.e. swearing affidavits, or submitting Access to Information Forms, I put my name “Wei William Tao”) or everything else I will use “Will Tao.”

I actually love the names of my immigration clients from different places around the world. I particularly love the “Singh,” “Kaur,” and biblical ceremony involved in Punjabi-Sikh names, the way certain Euro-Russian families will add an a or not to surnames of their parents, of Iranian and Sri Lankan names of multiple syllables, and of Latinx names where they pay hommage to both sides of the family. I also love learning about Indigenous names – particularly when the story behind the name and the clans on different sides of the family are introduced. I am proud of the Tao (cc: my post here about my ancestral home town) but why am I so reticent to adopt the “Wei.” I am in a profession where marketability, presentation, professionalism, and competency is everything. Why is Will Tao more competent and presentable than Wei Tao .  

Also, as a legal advocate – how do I fight for community – to ask for more non-white names of spaces, to ask for colonial names to be removed (a process known as “un-naming”), if I cannot do it myself, to my own name.

“We Cannot Pronounce Your Name”

My spouse is known to most as “Olivia.” She had previously chosen another English name but was told to change it.

For a period of time she reverted back to her Chinese name Xiaoqin when she was in English classes, adopting the short form “Qin” for hopeful ease. A Korean-Canadian instructor told my spouse, to change her name. She said “people could not pronounce it” and drew a metaphoric “You know how Japanese were called Japs” to try and convince her [Trust me, I was in disbelief as well. This is a true story].

This was not the first time this had happened. She had first chosen her original English name in China when the English instructors asked everyone to choose a white name creating many “Michael‘s” and “Mary‘s.”

Not too long ago, her Human Resources (HR) recruitment class, the HR instructor out of the blue asked “I have been wondering why are there students with two names – a Chinese name and an English name beside it.” Perhaps this comment was coming from the perspective of some one with privilege of having two white names. Again, one of the many microaggressions that students (particularly migrant newcomer students) face in their early education in Canada and in the job market. These are the types of implicit biases (one’s I have probably adopted myself on the other side reviewing resumes) which continue to hold down people of colour at staggering impacts. See article here from CBC in 2018 talking about this.

Also – on a related note – what should we do about the mispronunciation of our names? While it is a meaningful gesture to have our names reviewed with us before introduced, it is even more meaningful when we have a person of colour who speaks the language share it or even space to discuss it’s origins rather than to just have us cringe at it’s mispronunciation or give a “nice try” forced Starbucks-pick up line smile.

Asking Our Spouses to Take On Our Names

The history of Chinese women with respect to maintaining their surnames is a fascinating one. I won’t repeat it but direct you to this New York times article here. 

The usual practice is to have children take on the surname of the father, carrying on the practice of patriarchy.

Recently, someone I really admire in the community told me he went against cultural norms and had his son take on his female spouse’s surname. This is beautiful and I only hope more individuals can do things like this, particularly where the histories of naming is so patriarchal.

We also need to give space to women who choose to adopt their spouses white surnames. Too often in our communities, we are ostracizing women for doing this while not recognizing we are doing the same thing with our own first names but more importantly in the way we act in our workplaces and to other white dominant culture spaces.

Would I Be Brave Enough to Change My Name?

One mentor during the community organizer meeting talked about when he messaged his professional network and changed his name back to his Indigenous name from his adopted name. He mentioned it was quite a change.

What is stopping me from the similar liberation?

I look at the name Wei and I should feel love and a sense of place and grounding but I see foreignness and the judgments of those who see,  hear, and try to repeat it. The last time I heard. Just earlier this year, I published my Chinese name in a piece I wrote for a legal publication. It felt liberating but truthfully part of me thought that if I put that name it would be less “Google-able” and separate from my legal work.

Over the next few years I will be having this internal discussion with myself. Feel free when you meet or see me to try and call me “Wei.” Maybe even the dread, “High Wei.” Perhaps you can even honour some of our cultural traditions, and call me Tao Wei (which my mom does) with the surname first. I invite you to see how I react, hopefully with more familiarity will come more acceptance and more courage than I have historically show.

My Future Kids’ Names

I am not sure if any other young couples (with no children but plans to have them) have this activity where you “brainstorm” your future children’s name.  Sometimes it will be a random experience or place we visit and we will decide that this sounds like a good name. I likely, and maybe unfortunately, will still have my future child adopt an English name. One thing for sure is it will be unique and have meaning.

However, we have decided importantly that our child will have a Chinese name. I am not sure yet how to give it meaning: Do we name our child after an ancestor? Take certain characters from different relatives? Take two characters from a chengyu (Chinese idiom) to give it additional meanings? Unfortunately, my own knowledge of the Chinese language also fell victim to my early assimilation efforts as the second-generation product of first generation migrants. I will have to lean on my spouse more, but perhaps we all should.

Perhaps we should start learning these names and ask consent for the sharing of more stories about our names. Perhaps, ending on where the mentor started, we should have a longer conversation about this.

“When we lose our names, we lose the words given to us to define ourselves” – Me

A Few Poems From My Time at CUP

Last week I attended a week long retreat/workshop from Inner Activist called “Conscious Use of Power.” We spent the week on Gabriola Island’s “The Haven,” where I largely disconnected from my work and civilization.

Wile I promised I would do a longer blog piece for them (which I am still thinking through), I wanted to memorialize a few poems I wrote that week. I did not do as much poetry writing as I wanted to, but I hope the ones I did will speak to some of the attendees and perhaps encourage those who have not attended to go next year.

From the First Day:

A Different Me

Breathe
Air. Ocean.
The seagulls are resilient
We merely intrude.
Between gawks I look out at the rapidly flowing water.
I am a different me here.

 

From the First Night

Ginger Tea

The Ginger Tea is c orrect.
My throat is burning.

 

From the Second Morning

Morning After Migraine

Woke up in a cold sweat
Pain – a lifelong ailment
Still – I feel human again
So human in this pain
Maybe I need a reset.

 

From the Second Day

Powerless

POWER/LESS

People/Lost
Owned/Excluded
White/Stressed
Energy/Storms
Reality

 

From the Third Day

The Wasp

This lunch I followed a wasp. Or actually the wasp followed me.
While I am physically bigger than the wasp,
The wasp and their ability to sting held power over me.
Rather than observe, I turned away to afraid to even touch it.
It laid to feast on my food and salad.
Perhaps part of me was sweet, no I forgot this is not a bee.
Wasps continue to sting while bees lose their stinger and die – so to speak.
Coming back to the spot now where I last saw the wasp, they are no long here.
As much as I now want to observe it, it remembers that I rejected it two times.
I feared the power it held and did not engage.

From the Fourth Day

What is My Community?

Colonial work?
Model minority work?
What is my work?
What is my community?

From the Fourth Evening (Second Last Night)

Lying down on this cool September evening;
I look up – where I have not spent enough time;
I see stars – in the sky and surrounding me with their human presence;
I hear the wave and feel the energy – I forgot I had these senses
I feel the breeze of the ocean – carrying a message to me on the shores of these Indigenous lands;
I look at my beloved swings behind me
I think
…. through every word spoken
…..every dream shared
……every flaw identified
…….every tear dropped
………every dance done
………..I learned
………….I grew
I reflect back on these days
And realize that without every single one of you
…. every glance, every smile, every hug, every  ‘no, not now’, every piece of wisdom shared;
Each of you have left an indelible mark on this still searching soul;
I will carry you away in the same way the thoughts of you carried me here and through;
You are my stars, my waves, my swings, my dance, my hope;
You have renewed in me a faith in humanity;
In gratitude I hope that this cup will be shared as a source o f renewal, a resource we can turn to in love, with compassion.
Thank you for being here with me and for me.

 

I didn’t get a chance to write on the last night due to our celebration. I really miss CUP. I miss the conversation, the people, and the ability to daydream.

I’ll go resource myself in a minute.

Let Me Tell This a Different Way…….. Their Eyes (A Response to Op-Ed/Increasing Hate)

Their eyes.  Seen through a lot of things – more vividly when closed.

From villages where they would eat through garbage on the streets.

To now – being asked to go out by their wealthier friend to eat, but trying to find excuses. Running out.

The reality is what’s left of the fast food they served, is now dinner today. Plus whatever was on sale at Superstore – you know those ones with the special stickers.

They were sitting on the bus, eating traditional breaky at the back.

By the way people were looking at them, this would be the 60’s, they’d be black.

They would eat on a table if they had one in their room.

Man starting to look at them like they an animal from a zoo.

As they ate each bite, you can tell his anger grew.

Clutching a book by Peterson in one hand, the other reading the Op-Eds as if they were news. Holding these ancient views as if they it was shone light on an unwanted Son.

Under his white gaze, it was as if Slumdog Millionaire had come back on first run.

They goes into class late, cause the bus was running slow.

Like they usually do, they sit sit at back, trying to lay low.

Instructor talks about that ‘assimilation’ is what newcomers need to know.

Makes an offhand remark – you ain’t come here to play in snow.

They think: “Hell if it was snowing, they wouldn’t have proper shoes to wear.”

The last time at the store, they checked, nobody seem to care.

Looked at them as if they should have went next door to Payless shoes

It’s true, they barely had enough to pay their tuition dues.

Even at the temple, barefoot, they all looked as if they knew.

They were here with no mother, father, no ties – nothing to lose?

But they were slowly losing their mind, paying that cultural fine, struggling with differences across space and time, realizing this immigrant life is a grind.

Agent back there said in a ‘few years’ they’d be fine.

Turns out both him and their homestay were together on the lie.

Yet they still put on a brave smile, serving up them subs.

Have these blazed guys gaze them like they been sent to give them rubs.

They had an MBA and three years working in IT.

Nobody in the world seems to care who they might be.

Yet, they spend their weekends giving back through service and their volunteer.

They spend their nights talking to mom and dad who be in fear.

During the days they struggle thinking about a potential career.

They closes their door, regrets being a poor, thinks about that man who called them a coloured whore.

As they were trying to buy a snack, they got asked if they worked at the store.

Asked by a customer if they could help, a kid spilled, please sweep the floor.

They start thinking about that childhood – even through trash they at least had friends.

Whats the use of all this hustle – if no means also know no ends.

“Don’t worry – learn some English, in a minute you will blend.”

“Just learn to order a proper Canadiana next time you at Blenz.”

“Go back home to your country.” comes a booming voice from a Blue Benz.

They had accidentally jaywalked in their thoughts of things to mend.

Ties, Lies, Tries, Trial, Tribulations, Loser, Lost. Triggered. Time and Time Again. Determined. Do it. Don’t. Disintegrate. Dream. Dream. Dream.

The alarm clock rings. They are late for school again. Hopefully today is going to be different.

 

21 Day Anthology – Day 5 – Storytelling Training Session

I did training today with a group of Chinese-Canadian leaders for a workshop on storytelling.

There are some really good things – which I don’t want to spoil for those eventually attend the workshop, but I will share the story that I came up with. Perhaps you could draw the key concepts we were asked to include from my actual piece. Ps. the last paragraph doesn’t reflect reality.

On a side note, I am very excited to get to go to Calgary this Friday for The Action, Chinese Canadians Together Foundation Summit in Calgary.

Without further ado, here’s my short piece. I know I’m one day behind, so hopefully this is a good excuse.

I was born to an immigrant father who has 60 dollars in his pocket. Both himself and my mother were doctor’s in China. They had to restart their education from scratch in Canada. They lived in basements, cooked food for their landlords in exchange for rent. They had to endure prejudice from colleagues at work and financial struggle. I was born in Victoria, immune to the struggle around me.

 

As a 2nd-generation Canadian, I reaped the benefits of the economic success they had built for our family but blamed them for the cultural tensions they created within the household and the relationships I failed to establish with others – mostly white colleagues and white teachers.

 

I moved away from the Chinese culture viewing it as a crutch, a weakness, to be shed along with my integration into white society. In my childhood, going to ethnic enclaves such as a Chinatown began as a weekly obligation, a necessary requirement to be avoided. Sure, I enjoyed the barbeque buns but my father often harassed us back in the car to go home as soon as possible – the streets were apparently ‘not safe.’ As soon as I had another place to go – nicer, brighter, cleaner supermarkets in Richmond (similar to the way Toronto has Richmond Hill). I left. I pursued whiteness as a solution.

 

I was never told the stories of our struggles, the violence, to obtain equality that begun on these streets, the constant harassing of our businesses by bylaw enforcement officials, the exclusion of our women, the taking way of our basic rights to vote. I became a lawyer fighting for justice without knowing the story of our own community’s injustice. I owe it Dr. Henry Yu, at UBC, for teaching me and asking me to rethink my own story but also the role of Chinese-Canadians in building Canada.

 

I learned railroad wasn’t built us just buy us by hired help that we were here and built it for our own subjugation. This story gave me meaning.

 

I know many individuals feel the same as me. We’ve spent time in Chinatown but forgotten our roots to this space, and the roots to our identities. To me reclaiming Chinatown is reclaiming our history and showing Canadians there is more that unites us and divides us. It is a story of humility, of resilience, crossing ethnic communities. It is of grandparents, of kindness and generosity, of vendors feeding us and sacrifice on the street corners. Yet, I still see the same tensions that affected the relationship between me and my parent’s generation today.

 

Now, we need to ensure that Chinatown does not become a forgotten asterix, a planning. try but fail – or even that we failed. We need to support actions that allow us to apply for UNESCO Designation. We need to encourage efforts to support local businesses to ensure they are not subsumed by unhealthy gentrification. I urge you to come out to our next meeting as a guest to the Chinatown Legacy working group in a week next week and to support our event. We will provide our food to fill your stomachs from our local bakery, we just kindly ask that you make a small donation of $20. This donation will go a long way to supporting our initiatives and supporting our efforts to write a comprehensive report to council on the need for further funding for our next steps.

21 Day Anthology – Day 4 – Decolonize (one day behind)

I’m one day behind. No excuses. Weekend ball drop. Paul George not playing up on Dame.

Decolonize

I want to decolonize.

I am trapped in colonial work.

It is like I forgot the colour of my own skin.

What is the content of my character?

Am I too content with these spoils at my door.

Why does it burn one out more to help the poor.

But why do I even refer to them as poor.

Their richer in culture than you and me.

They organize, and put feets on the streets.

They speak up and when they drum you best believe your heart is touched your head starts throbbing. You naturally start bobbing.

But don’t forget that very beat was once banned.

And I just pass on laws to clients they can barely understand.

Because sometimes, it wasn’t made to understand rather to reprimand.

We need to decolonize man and there’s a reason I said it.

Instead of caring what they be saying about my work on Reddit.

End it.

21 Day Anthology – Day 3 – Rays of an Immigrant’s Sun

These quickly flipped pages, the work of our modern day sages, trapped in our below-average wages, creating pitfalls so cancerous they got stages, they say we’re just going through economic phases, you know the pendulum swings – yeah they actually say this, got most of us ignoring what the actual time of day is, we’ve been in dark so long, can God save us?

The grass is greener than ever but the cash cow still grazes, forgetting it’s this land not the sands that truly made us. Yet they keep calling it a displacement of their cultural make-up. Yet these conversations behind our backs isn’t why at night we stay up. It’s because we’re sweeping your floors at night after your kids layup. Going home in the mornings after your bosses berate us.

Got a kid at home who wants to be like Russ, but can’t make it to practice from the outskirts – no bus, so now he stuck on the bench as a barely-called sub, straight rust, got his teammates telling him both him and his dad suck, that he should be going back to Pakistan where they supposedly came from, that he should stick to the math books and chilling with Dim Sum, that’s the name they gave his best friend Brandon to remind him where he from, even though he was born just a block from all of them. Half the time they wish they could run. The other half they wish they could pull out a gun. The reality is these bricks weigh a ton. Back breaking sticks and stones under rays of an immigrant’s sun.

21 Day Anthology – Day 1 – Beginning to Wonder and Wander

Whether it not it takes 21 days to truly make a habit, it is clear that in my life and practice, writing needs to play a more prominent role – for healing, coping, and as a bastion of creativity. Over the next 21 days I will force myself to write various creative pieces that purposely take me out of the usual context of being an immigration and refugee lawyer and into the realm of writing. If you are looking for professional writing, this is not the right place. I have never been formally trained. I’ve been told my writing is too ranty, too wordy, nauseating to read. Perhaps our words reflect our busy minds. What you will get is raw, truth-seeking, words on paper without fear or reservation of consequence.

Today’s piece titled “Beginning to Wonder and Wander” is a short poem that digs into some deep content and thoughts. I used to be a rapper/emcee for many years. Writing in lyric form comes naturally. Hopefully I will over the next 21 days engage in other forms.:

We live in this present state of too many beginnings.

Our ideas flow so frequently from our oversaturated minds. I believe the experts would call this a ‘synapses problem.’

Anyways, I couldn’t explain it to you. You see, I never was one good at Sciences and yes, it was considered a seminal failure when I wrote to the registry of the University stating boldly – physics will be the death of me and chemistry never worked out for me both in the books and in my limited relationships I had failed to begin or maintain properly. I guess sometimes there weren’t even certain beginnings to start with.

Instead  I spent years between states of wonder and wander, wondering what the differences were between the ‘o’ and the ‘a.’ I guess I was always more of a wanna-be-wonder boy, not that anyone ever dared to called me ‘wonderful,’ but that word had no A’s just like my transcript that I was made to believe defined my life worth – below average and boring.

I also liked the circular idea of the ‘o’ that I would going in circles dealing with one thing or another. I was really good at repeating and copying and pasting but when it came to exploring I fell short of climbing the fence that all the kids navigated with ease. I was scared of the fall. Still am today – the object of many nightmares and occasional realities.

I’m beginning to wonder if I had it all backwards. Whether I should have spent more time wandering the streets of my City aimlessly and freely, observing the intricate nooks and crannies and exposing myself to more truth. Giving my heart a little harder armour. Whether that would have addressed that fear I have when I clench the hands of my amour tightly to navigate around threats perceived only… I realize…  in my… oversaturated mind.

Today, I both wonder and wander through the mazes of this life – telling that often too vocal voice inside that he won’t steal my courage, that 30 years of occupation was more than enough. That my inability to gaze into your eye directly when speaking to you isn’t just a cultural bandage for fear, as I have finally stopped bleeding. I wish I could walk out of yesterday but indeed when I look at the scars from surgeries past or those glasses pressed against a too-flat face that used to cause me so much torment – I am still very much yesterday’s child.

I don’t ask for any special accomodation – but I ask you occasionally to listen and let me speak or ask me if I have some thoughts before rushing to conclusions on stories that have too many beginnings for you to even begin to contemplate.

I wonder when I will let go. I wander the dark corridors of my soul seeking for that enlightenment.

 

 

I Want What Timmy Has – A Short Narrative

I haven’t wrote a fictional, lighter piece in a while so I thought I’d put together this short narrative. Like many stories there are elements of my own life embedded into it. I am also sure many of you can relate to some of the streams of written thought I go on. I’ve made a commitment to myself to do more non-fiction writing in 2019 so here’s a quick one!

 

I stared at him across the room. Timmy. My part time friend and part time enemy “frienemy.”

Like always he was the centre of attention. Table packed with the most attractive girls from our class, the guys from the hockey team, and today a few young admirers I recognized from last night’s big game.

I did not have the luxury of such a fan base.

Like every other noon o’clock it was my daily period of solitude.

Today my friend Chen was sick – that or his parents took him back to China again. The rumour going around was that all us had the Asian flu. Including me, who I note never ever had stepped a single foot in the motherland, Asia.

It usually would just be us two – talking about, well mostly it was a silent Buddhistic ritual. His mom was a good cook – I would ask him what he was having. It usually looked and smelled better than mine. That and he had the triple layer thermos that neatly separated his rice, meat, and vegetable dishes. My own dented thermos carried a mystery mix or yesterday’s leftovers and some hidden surprises my pops whipped up at 7am. He was up early every day to make our lunches.

It wasn’t that I hated Timmy. If this was PE (Phys Ed) class we’d still share occasional laughs but half the time he may have been laughing at me. See I wasn’t the fittest boy in class. While rap fashion was in and I was of above average weight, the extra large hoodies and pants didn’t help. They were off the discount rank and I didn’t know better. The colours usually a mix of vibrant yellow, orange, and white accentuating how out of shape I was. The gym was a foreign place of growth stinting potential – one of the many places and spaces, the rules dictated I was forbidden to visit.

Timmy went into his brown paper bag and pulled out his sandwich. It looked like Black Forest Ham. I never much liked sandwiches but I was jealous of the neat tinfoil wrapping. His lunch was a series of hidden surprises. Sometimes he would gift a piece to his favourite admirer, who would woo and give him a peck on the check or one of those deep hugs that I desired – the hugs the members of the hockey team would give to each other after a nice goal, or when greeted by their fans after the game. All I had were the handshakes of a good game after a tennis match – usually one I would also be excluded from, riding the pine (or the place behind the chained fence, as it usually was in our tennis games).

Exclusion was a natural concept for me in these years. Excluded from my culture, from Timmy’s culture, from the school culture. I took refuge in my own little world of written words and verses, of Tupac and Em, much to the chagrin of my deeply conservative-music classical music listening family.

Today Timmy took out a cylindrical round thing out of his bag. I could tell by it’s colour – green that it was gold to me. The bane of my existence. Everything I wanted. I had tried asking for it before. Mom’s would tell me – ‘why the heck would you eat that when you eat the actual thing itself?’ and ‘do you think we’re a white family? – it’s too expensive’

I craved the sweetness, the granular, smooth texture. To me it was finer than the fanciest cake (not that we had any options but the over dry, fake peach fruit cake of every birthday ever). Timmy opened it up, licking the lid, blissfully unaware that the three girls surrounding were watching the tip of his tongue with eyes wide of excitement as they were already engaged in second base. Whatever, second base was – for me it was just Roberto Alomar.

A white plastic spoon came out of his brown paper bag. I stared down at my own chopsticks, which in my lack of attention paid had turned into one chopstick and one game of pick-up sticks waiting on the floor.

Timmy was smiling, he blue at his bleached blonde hair – spoon caressing carefully the corners of the plastic cup.

This is a memory I always carry with me. I carried it years later when I was in a foreign land (where what Timmy was having was entirely foreign). One of my classmates at the time had her family from Mid-West USA deliver some packages of the stuff. It was so damn good, I went for thirds and skipped dessert.

But, more than that, it represented a jar of memories, a cup of perfection of a culture that I never could fit in but damn right wanted to. An object of affection to a soul that at material times both crave it and lacked it.

I want what Timmy has. To be honest I still want it today.

I want that damn Apple Sauce.