Before I moved home to San Francisco, my dad wrote in a letter to me: I look forward to you returning this summer. This is your home; this is the only home you know. I understand it will be a transition period for you. I will feed and take care of you. We can spend time together in the kitchen. Let’s take some walks so we can spend more time together. I could also use the exercise.
I missed home. I always miss home. I miss waking up to peeled slices of pomelo and tangerine waiting for me on the kitchen table. I miss the daily rhythm of life shared with those you love: watching my mom put on her pearl earrings and brew her afternoon tea. I miss lazing around with my sister as we pass the time in each other’s company. I miss the familiar piles of receipts, papers stacked high, family photos in every corner of the house–the clutter of a life lived fully.
My dad writes: I love you very much, my baby. I know you are having a difficult time right now. You have the intelligence, resilience, and diligence to help you get through the difficulties that are inevitable in life. You will be able to deal with your adversities.
I am resilient enough because you made me so. Because you raised me to be so. I know I will make it because I have always had someone believe in me. Because I know what it feels like to grow up in a world that may not teach you to love yourself, but in a family that made sure that I knew. I’ve always known love.
Wherever I am in the world, my mom writes postcards to me. She always makes sure to remind me: Know that you are so loved and protected. I always think of you. I will always love you. Always proud of you. I am glad we are in this life together, Nina.
My cousin waking up in the morning, mom gazing at my dad, my grandfather showing me how to add pigment to his prints, the bruises on my friends back from cupping therapy, Chinese soup spoons serving me piles of steaming food–this is what home looks like, feels like, to me.