Tag Archives: grandparents

Memories of a Guava Tree

Memories of a Guava Tree

By Dawson Yee, age 13, grade 7, California.

My grandmother’s hands reach for my face
Feeling to be sure I am the child she remembers
Her mind has only enough space
for past Decembers.

My mother, father, and aunt turn in surprise
Her knotted hands grip my shoulders in recognition
With a teasing crinkle in her eyes
she calls my name, an intermission

Three years ago, she gave me a white guava seedling
With hardy red stems and elliptical leaves
She explained what it was needing
Learned from years of shielding it from disease.

Afterwards, she ushered me into the guest room, where she unearthed treasure:
An embroidered Japanese trinket box, a logic puzzle, an old plush toy
Her smiling eyes watched my curiosity with pleasure
As she entered the absurdly colorful world of a little boy.

But now we sit together watching nature shows
And she is like a sailor disappearing into a storm.
I can see her boat sinking but I’m not sure she knows
she’s lost her tiller and our roles will transform.

A logger chopping a tree flashes on the screen
She worries for the animals inside, knowing they are doomed.
I reach over her frail figure and push the remote to intervene
I tell her that our guava has finally bloomed.

—Dawson Yee, age 13, grade 7, California. Dawson writes:

“I see creative writing as a puzzle of wisdom. I’m 13 years old and in 7th grade but take high school English and philosophy at a local independent school. 

“I’ve also adored challenging myself to understand the symbolism behind not only prose such as in magical realism, but also the figurative language in poetry. When I recently analyzed “Boy and Egg” by Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye, I found that searching for evidence of Nye’s purposeful line breaks and sound devices to convince a reader she was contrasting the innocence of a childhood immersed in nature versus the chaotic world to be beyond satisfying as a puzzle to solve. 

“I use my heritage as a third-generation Asian American to inform my writing, as it is an important part of how I view the world. I also write with an eye to health, both physical and mental, as I personally have several life-threatening allergies as well as Mass Cell Activation Syndrome, which shape my view of the world. My maternal grandmother, who recently passed away from Alzheimer’s disease, provided the basis for my poem “Memories of a Guava Tree.” In addition, I am influenced by my parents’ experiences as second-generation Americans growing up in predominantly non-Asian rural and inner-city U.S. communities and by my grandparents’ stories of the immigrant experience and their childhoods wrenched by memories of war and poverty. 

“I’m also an Event Coordinator for an online, international Asian American youth writers’ collective, Asian Youth Writers Alliance (asianyouthwritersalliance.com). In the writing groups that I’ve found surrounding these events and projects, where my classmates and fellow writers are insightful and tactful, I feel I have the space to put the puzzle of wisdom together. I would love to connect with a multicultural and global community of young writers who share the same values as these online initiatives. In finding literary magazines like Skipping Stones to share my writing, I realize more and more that I’m truly searching for the exact kind of wisdom and togetherness it provides.”

Mona Lisa Memories

Mona Lisa Memories

By Katacha Díaz, Oregon

During my childhood years of growing up in Peru, as the first-born grandchild in the family, I spent a great deal of time with my loving and nurturing paternal grandparents. Papapa and Mamama patiently indulged me with clever age-appropriate answers to my many questions. I was intrigued by my grandparents’ art collection—serene landscapes and stormy seascapes kept me entertained, but I was most fascinated by the formal portraits of our family members and predecessors. Little did I realize we had such illustrious relatives in our family tree, for the family to commission portraits from popular artists of the time.

My Mamama and Papapa on their Return Voyage from Europe, 1953

Recently I spent time organizing my own family memorabilia, collected over the years, and found myself transported back in time to childhood days at my grandparents’ sprawling house in Miraflores, a suburb of Lima, Peru (see below). The family had gathered at Sunday luncheon to celebrate my grandparents’ return home from Paris. Papapa had served four years as Peru’s ambassador to France.

The Author as a child at her Grandparents home in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. 1948.

This particular day is etched in my memory. Papapa stood beside me while I gazed wide-eyed at the painting of a smiling beautiful young woman. “Is she another of our famous relatives, I asked him?” Papapa shook his head and smiled. “This is a copy of the world famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, the Mona Lisa. Mamama and I saw the original painted on wood, at the Louvre Museum in France. We found our oil-on-canvas copy at an art gallery, during an evening stroll along the Ponte Vecchio in Florence (Italy).”

“Mona Lisa” Replica. Illustration by Daemion Lee. Oregon.

Papapa and Mamama showed me photo albums and art books collected during their European travels. These were filled with photographs of renowned paintings and illustrations with captions, along with artist biographies and exhibition notes. I learned the difference between an original piece of art and a reproduction, like the one in my grandparents’ house. Later, we stood by the floor globe in Papapa’s study and charted the voyage of the replica Mona Lisa. Our Mona Lisa had traveled inside a wooden crate from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Panama Canal to reach Peru!

Growing up in the exotic land of the Incas, I was impressed by my grandparents’ eclectic art and stamp collections, the leather-bound books, and encyclopedias lining the walls of the library where my grandfather spent hours reading and writing. Mamama and Papapa’s home opened a whole new world to explore and study during my sleep-over adventures. Five decades ago, following in my grandparents’ footsteps, I visited la bella Firenze, walking across the beloved 16th century Ponte Vecchio, peering into the windows of the art galleries, goldsmith shops, and souvenir sellers. And I imagined Papapa and Mamama enjoying a romantic afternoon stroll along the picturesque bridge, the only one in Florence that was spared from destruction during the Second World War. I was transported back in time and reconnecting with my dear Papapa and Mamama missing their presence in my life.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy. Illustration by Daemion Lee, Oregon.

All these years later, I am grateful for my childhood memories of Peru, and the way that a painting or a photograph can keep my grandparents in my life, even today. In my kitchen I keep a watercolor painting of sunflowers in a Tuscan (Italy) field, which I found along the Ponte Vecchio. It keeps the memories alive and is good for my soul. Who could ask for more?”

Katacha Díaz is a Peruvian American writer and author. Wanderlust and love of travel have taken her all over the world to gather material for her stories. She has been published in many outlets, including in several issues of Skipping Stones. Katacha lives in the Pacific Northwest, near the mouth of the Columbia River, USA. 

Mrs. Anne’s Closet



By Melissa Harris, Illinois. Illustration by her daughter, Madeline Harris, age 11.

Mrs. Anne’s home was like a museum. Everything I would pick up had a story. “Where did you get this hairbrush from, Mrs. Anne?” I’d ask. 

“That was Big Mom’s, my mother, and it sat on her dresser when I was a girl,” my grandma would say. 

“And now I’m the girl,” I’d add to the story, gliding my finger across the brush that was a shade between blue and gray. 

Sometimes my grandma would let me play dress up in her closet. It was a place for dreaming with your eyes wide open. “Every dress, hat, and handbag has a past, Maddie,” she’d say. “And when the time is right, they’ll be yours to own.” She opened the door to a world of fantasy held in an armoire. 

A striped aquamarine and white dress that looked like it was made for a princess. A black dress as skinny as a water hose hung next to a red kimono, draped over other hidden treasures I couldn’t wait to discover. “I know what you’re eye’n.” Mrs. Anne observed with a smirk. I ran to yank the kimono off of the satin hanger. As Mrs. Anne helped to put it on, the phone rang. She left me to the rest and took the call in the next room. 

The kimono was so oversized that it wrapped around me twice and then some. I could hear what she’d say if she was still in the room, “Maddie, you’re swallowed in memories and love.” I beamed with honor, and recalled the stories she had told me of our heritage. Mrs. Anne was Chinese and African-American. Her mom was from Arkansas, and her dad was from Hong Kong. Somehow their paths crossed in St. Louis where they fell in love. She’d tell me stories of how I descended from two groups of people who were the first to leave genetic footprints on the world, Africa and Asia. “Being the first doesn’t prevent cruelty,” she’d say, “for both countries experienced invasion and mistreatment.” My thoughts of their story swirled in chaos, so fast that my head started to ache, twisting and turning ideas into knots. My string of thoughts collided, and when they crashed, I was no longer in Mrs. Anne’s closet. I was standing at the edge of a mountain that had to be over a thousand feet high.

I was too scared to look down at first, so I slowly stepped back until my heart no longer tried to jump out of my chest. Where was Mrs. Anne? Where was I? I needed to find a trace of something familiar. I got the nerve to look past my immediate surroundings without moving a single limb. Down below was a harbor and fishing boats with the most vivid red sails. Colors blended together like a rainbow, and I couldn’t make out the body of water in front of me. A black and blue butterfly with stripes like the royal dress in Mrs. Anne’s closet fluttered by. I followed. It led to a path that curved around the mountain, probably used like an elevator to take you up or down. I crossed over to an enormous white house in the distance. Maybe someone there could help me get back to my grandma. 

Several arched windows lined the white home. A girl who looked about my age sat under a cotton tree with a book. She didn’t move when I walked towards her, just stared like a frozen sculpture. She had eyes like my grandmother with hair cut straight as a line to her shoulders. I knelt beside her and blurted, “hi.” She hesitated, then exhaled a sigh. I extended my finger towards the house. “Do you live there?” “Lin,” she said pointing to herself. “Maddie,” I responded, imitating her movements. 

Just then, a man in a navy-blue uniform slammed the side door to exit. He didn’t look like Lin. He had red hair and skin as pale as the house he exited. After a few steps, he yelled, barmy bloke! A man in a white apron, the kind a cook wears hurried out, bowing to the soldier’s black boots. The soldier’s tirade was like the howling of a wolf, and though I couldn’t see the details of his face, I was sure it wore a glare. The same as the medals pinned to his uniform from the blazing sun. He backed the cook against the wall. When he was close enough to hover over him with a raised fist, Lin screamed, ting! Her words may have stopped the cook from harm, but the soldier’s anger turned towards us. I didn’t understand their language, but I could infer the cook’s meaning when he yelled, pao! Lin ran towards the trolley path, and I followed. In the distance I could see Lin’s destination; a trolley stopped on the side of the road to pick up passengers headed to the lower peak. Lin ran faster than anyone I had ever seen, and I couldn’t catch up. So, I stopped. I felt a tug at my left ponytail and fell back towards the force. It was the soldier. Before I could think of a plan to escape, my bottom scuffed the ground and my head followed. My thoughts began to spin again, and my eyes opened to a different setting. I was at Mrs. Anne’s. 

“You alright honey? I heard a hard thud, like you fell.” I could see the concern in Mrs. Anne’s eyes because she saw the fear in mine. I was still shaken up from the soldier and the distant land with people who seemed familiar to me.

“Did your daddy have a sister? I asked, smearing tears across my face.

“He did. Her name was Lin.” 

“I think I met her in my dream.” 

“I’m sure you did,” Mrs. Anne laughed. I didn’t care if she believed me. I was just grateful to be in her arms, swallowed in memories and love. 

Glossary:

Blue Tiger Butterfly/Tirumala limniace is found in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Its wings are black with blue markings.

Pao: (頓契, 獵契, 텝, 쒔檀, 굴텝, 텝꼍) run

Tíng: (界) stop

Victoria Peak: A hill on the western half of Hong Kong Island that rises 1,810 feet. 

Victoria Harbor: A natural landform harbor separating Hong Kong Island in the south from the Kowloon Peninsula to the north.

By Melissa Harris, multiracial (Chinese, Irish, and African American), English teacher, Illinois.

Illustration by Melissa’s daughter, Madeline Harris, a budding artist, age 11.

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