'Shua-nging!' (Children!) The sound of her strident voice reverberates down the narrow stairwell. I remember that musty, dark, winding stairwell that led to her second floor apartment in Glendale as vividly as I did the day I established a meaningful relationship with my grandmother. Through this relationship, I have come to know her as a friend, a confidante, and lastly, a woman I admire.
I was only seven at the time, and the only thing I cared about was the fact that my grandmother spoke in a very loud and grating voice, and that she kept on patting my hand (which annoyed me to no end). My grandparents are separated- my grandfather lives with us, while she lives in a separate apartment by herself in Glendale. My family and I used to eat lunch at her house every week. I remember trudging up the dank, squeaky stairs with my siblings, yelling 'An-yang!!'(grandmother) all the way.
She would yell in a similar fashion 'Ah! Shua- nging!' (ah, children!) Smells of old-fashioned Shanghainese cooking would assail my senses, as my mouth watered in anticipation of the savories to come.
One particular afternoon, after we had finished eating, we draped ourselves around her living room. I was sitting on a dilapidated couch, whose colors were made indiscernible by time, and was looking around her room. My gaze swept from the thin, worn carpet, bare in some places, to the scarred wooden dresser, to a dirty doll with an eye missing. (My grandmother could never bear to throw anything away). She came and sat down next to me, taking my hand in hers. The tight braid at the nape of her neck was coming undone. Wisps of thick black hair framed her square face. I looked down at the contrast between our...