New Park, Old Memories

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

I stand alone in the middle of an empty square, looking at the period Chinese pavilion that was built less than a month ago. The park is new. The smell of paint is still fresh in the air, the carved characters still sharp on the edge, the cement still free of gum spots and cracks. If I look just beyond the gray, I can see the familiar steps to my grandparents’ house.

Whenever I visit my grandparents on the countryside of China, I always spend more time out on the front steps than I do indoors. There used to be a small pond for rice across the road that provided cool during the boiling summers. In the early mornings before the fieldwork began and the late afternoons when the day was done, people gathered near the front steps to enjoy the chill while they sat and gossiped. I often settled nearby and listened to them toss and turn their gentle dialect. Even though I never understood the words, their particular inflection reminded me where I belonged.

Now cement is under my feet and I have no way of recovering what’s underneath. The pond was dried, filled, and covered up with materials that don’t belong. The color scheme is no longer an unintentional mixture of plants, soil, and water, but a calculated construction of pavilion,...

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