Here is a collection of memories from my childhood.
I am in kindergarten, it is story time, I am wearing a turtleneck that itches at my neck and I am not feeling well. I throw up on the rug, in front of everyone, sobbing hysterically, and my father leaves the campus where he’s teaching to come pick me up, taking me straight to class with him because it was easier than taking me to the babysitter. I fall asleep in the corner of his classroom to the sound of his voice lecturing disenchanted freshmen about the Yangtze river.
My sister and I spend a hazy, humid summer in Taiwan with our mother, running amok in the streets, eating food at the night market and listening to my mother’s sisters babble over our heads in Chinese. My uncle takes me for a ride on his scooter and I wear no helmet as we careen around the corners and dart in and out of traffic near my ah-ma’s apartment. My mother brings me to the salon to get a perm, and I return to the United States nut-brown and curly haired. When I run to my father at the airport, he holds me at arm’s length. “Who is this?!” he jokes. “You’re not my daughter!”
Countless nights, my father falls asleep in the living room with the television on, our dog Maggie curled up on the floor near the couch. I remove his glasses and wake him up, telling him to go to bed.
My parents divorced when I was very young. The courts granted my father primary custody of my sister and myself because they ruled that my mother’s new relationship with my stepfather was her priority. I have no memory of a family other than the tiny unit that existed — myself, my sister and my father.