Ep#20 Grandmother's Hands
I've been told I have my grandmother's hands rubbing calendula and rose oil to soothe the crevices forming in my skin. Lately, they've been cracking from the many times I've said “Twinkle, twinkle little star to myself, treating every cleanse as a ritual to celebrate old karma being washed away. Beyond flesh. My bones speak to the future I cannot quite grasp yet, but the feeling is certain. We were made for these times. Grandmother's hands knew how to garden a wilting weed back to life, the ones they tried to remove as unwanted, uprooted from her soil, flown into a foreign land as a reminder that sometimes dandelions serve as medicine. With few words spoken, English broken, her whispers from the garden beckoned me to speak on the things she wished, she could have said before her body turned to stardust and soil.
Kin khao lairang? Have you eaten yet? Hands offering strange fruit reminiscent of her country to say, I love you. What is blooming from these moments will compost and rebirth into the same balm that soothes these dry grandmother's hands today. And I am patiently caring for her, preserving what innocence I have left, as I call upon the elder, I too, I’m becoming. The one unsilenced as loud as an oak tree, as resilient as a lotus with seeds that will carry our stories of a time when the Earth asked us to be still, to be rooted, to savor the moments of cleansing, of compost, of creation. What will you do with your hands, with your heart, with your voice? What are the stories you will tell of how you emerged from the mud as you beamed light into the darkness in these times of change?
It's been a heavy week on my heart. I'm tired and I'm also fired up about the ways we can build bridges across differences without burning out. Of course, last Saturday I had the privilege of being asked to close out a vigil in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, that was organized to draw awareness to the violence happening towards our Asian elders. And I shared a new spoken-word piece I wrote called Grandmother's Hands, inviting everyone to feel the presence of our ancestors and the elders in our body. There were tears as we felt the grief and the weight of responsibility to protect our elders. Our elders, that carry so many stories many of us are still dearly clinging on to. Our elders are the culture keepers, and they are often the last bridge back to our roots.
I can still remember my grandmother as we went to pick her up from L. A. X 3. She came out of the terminal with a sarong and one bag that was probably carried on because she didn't need much to survive. She was a countrywoman who was so dedicated to her roots. And I remember also telling my mother how sad I felt that “Yiey”, which means grandmother in our language wasn't able to see the world as the rest of us here in our family in the United States, and my mother responded that my grandmother did not feel like she was missing out at all, because actually, I think it was my grandmother who shared this with me. Why? When everywhere is the same, there are plants, there are people, there's water. And just imagine a little 4ft something elder who came from the countryside in the jungles of southern Thailand who boarded an airplane by herself without any English to come to the United States so that my mother did not have to raise a family on her own. And so I reflect on the love that our elders have for us, how they are willing to leave their ancestral homeland so that we wouldn't have to feel alone. And she raised me until I was about three years old and my grandfather followed her shortly after her migration here because he missed her so much and my grandmother was feeling very lonely and he came.
So whenever I go and visit my parents, the backyard has these plants that are thriving because over 30 years ago is when my grandparents were the ones who planted those seeds that still flourish today in a country where they were told to go back to where they come from. I love going to sit with a persimmon tree. Persimmon. I don't know if I'm saying that correctly. All I know is that my grandfather's presence lives in the fruit. My grandmother's hands are felt in the basil leaves and the Thai chili, and there are so many of our elders who are homesick but don't have a way to go back. Or they choose to stay here because of the love that they have for their children and their grandchildren. And it hurts to see that they are the ones being attacked, the ones who lay their head low, who are silent, who mind their own business because of the fear of not being able to speak English good enough or just not wanting to draw attention to themselves and get right now, we cannot help but have the attention drawn onto us.
Y'all. I wish I could say this shit is done. I wish I could say that it is over. And I also debate on how much I want to focus on this, because am I bringing more, am I centering violence more than I'm centering love and joy? Well, guess what? My ability to love is a result of my capacity to feel my anger and to feel my grief and to recognize that these eight people who were recently murdered have names, have families of their own immigrated to the United States with a dream to have a better life for themselves, for their future generations. And how many of us are asking why is it that they leave their motherland in the first place? Why is it that people cross borders to come here? Yeah. Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Yongjung Park, Pak Ho, Juanita Falcon, Angel Quinto, Christian Hall, Vicha Ratana Pakdee, and how many other names do we not know?
And so I come to you today. Their names rolled off of my tongue to acknowledge that we have work to do and we all have our place. Maybe some of you, are called to take it to the streets. Maybe some of you just need the space to grieve. But my hope and my intention are that these stories are not kept forgotten. You know, before there was the written word, there was the spoken word. It is how our ancestors preserved our stories. It is how they preserved our legacies. And so I also want to acknowledge that just because you don't speak it doesn't make you weak. Oftentimes there is strength in our silence. There is a loudness in our energies and the ways that we can ground ourselves amid adversity. And so maybe for many of us, it is that time of reflection of honoring the ones that came before us, the sacrifices they had to make so that we and I are speaking at this moment specifically to other Asian Americans, people of the Asian diaspora so that we can use our voice today and actually to anybody who has been a survivor of violence. For those of you whose families migrated here, whether forced or by choice, for you to use your voice in these times as an opportunity to speak on behalf of the ones who were silenced. How many stories have been lost because of the story of, Oh, my English is not good enough or nobody cares what it is I have to say. This is why we speak. And yes, my legacy, my business in this iteration of this current lifetime is as a storytelling coach to really doula others into being able to bird that story for themselves. But honestly, it's so much more than just growing a business and finding the right words to say, this is a tool of liberation. So that our next generation knows that you used your voice in these times and they get to know where it is they come from. And they also get to rewrite the story where we are not seen as weak or passive but that we are strong, that we come from a lineage of not just survivors, but drivers and warriors.
So I wish I could tell you what action to take right now. What petitioned to sign. But at this moment, I really miss my grandma y'all. She is an ancestor at this point. But I know that when I speak I feel her voice in mine. I feel her blood flowing through me. And so when I do this, I heal, I heal my lineage And I hope that you take this as a call to action as an invitation for you to also perhaps sit with your elders, to listen to their stories, to preserve them and to also remember the elder, the ancestor that you too, are becoming.
I love you.
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