Wishing good health to my grandparents in China, 6,000 miles away. (Image courtesy of Hannah Zhao)
Orange County School of the Arts

Column: 6,000 miles away

When I was young, I remember listening to classmates enthusiastically talking about their weekend plans with their grandparents.

Some grandparents lived right across the street, while others lived right next door. Some grandparents pick up their grandchildren from school and others bake mouth-watering cookies, a favorite of many of my friends. I envied my friends and classmates, but I knew that I would have my own to share when I got back to school from summer break, after an amazing month in China with my own grandparents. 

In March 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic shut the entire nation down and me along with it. No longer able to visit my grandparents, even during the summer, my memories with them are all the more precious. 

When I think of my grandparents, I think of their two-story house, the second floor occupied only when my sister and I visit. There’s a gate shedding red paint guarding this house, and it opens most frequently when we go on walks to the local parks and shops. Upon opening the front door, there’s a blue curtain of heavy beads. Countless photos were taken in front of this blue background, mostly goofy ones.  

As I reminisce through all my memories of my grandparents, my thoughts linger on my grandma’s delicious dumplings, a family favorite. Now, with such a long distance between us, I wonder if I would’ve remembered those dumplings more clearly if I had taken the time to make them with my grandma.

Then, I think of the refrigerator, full of yogurt, juice and ice cream bars, every young child’s dream. Now, as I’ve matured, I realize that, perhaps, the refrigerator only looked like that when I visited. 

Numerous photos were put on display in the living room, most of them of my younger self. I can’t help but wonder how my grandparents will recognize me when I visit them again, after this pandemic.

It’s been three years. 

From time to time I would try to imagine what it’d be like to see my grandparents and the two-story house again. I imagine a tender voice calling from the wash-room and revealing a fragile old lady with a wet mop and apron.

Tears would blur my eyes as I gaze at her with the innocent and vulnerable smile that I had originally thought rehearsing would be enough to convey. The old lady would put down her mop, wipe her hands and spread her arms. Her eyes would curve and disappear behind her raised cheeks as I run into an embrace I never knew I would miss so much. 

In 2021, 6,000 miles away, I wonder.

Does the ripping red gate still creak as it guards the two-story house? Are the beads still hanging? Is the refrigerator still full of my childhood favorite ice creams?  Are the pictures still smiling? 

Perhaps my mind only made them seem a certain way. Perhaps I’ve already forgotten what they’re really like. After all, much time has passed since I’ve visited, and there is no way I can visit anytime soon.

However, I assure myself, 6,000 miles away stands a two-story house, occupied by a loving old couple who waits for my return.