One gap I saw in my life was losing touch with my relatives who were now spread over Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Taipei. Even though I was an only child, I grew up with my paternal grandparents, Dad, three of his younger brothers, their wives, two of his younger sisters, and one of them’s husband. When I moved to New York City at fourteen, I had three younger cousins. I had wonderful memories of my childhood. I hadn’t seen them since my last visit to Taipei right before I went to college and before two of my uncles migrated from Taipei. Los Angeles and Vancouver didn’t seem that far from Boston. I decided to visit them after not having seen them for twelve years.
I visited Vancouver first. I knew very little about what my uncle, aunt, and two cousins like even though I grew up with them. They owned a tea shop in Taipei. I always remembered how their apartment smelled. I didn’t know what would happen when I saw them again but I knew they were an important part of my past.
My cousin Jimmy picked me up at the Vancouver International Airport. He grew up enough to drive a car now. He did not recognize me. I did not spot him. I called him and he was standing right behind me. I gave him a hug and he sort of took it.
My uncle and aunt were waiting for me to arrive and almost greeted me at the door. They had not changed a bit — just as I remembered them to be. Their faces. Their voices. Their caring. Childhood memories from Taiwan rushing through my mind. We talked and tried to catch up as much as possible. I was glad that my Mandarin and Taiwanese held up. I told them how I was doing and they told me how they were. Finally, it was so late that we all reluctantly said good night.
My uncle and aunt took me to all the cool spots they knew: Queen Elizabeth Park, Granville Island, Gastown, and Chinatown. Just liked how they did in Taipei. I felt immediate comfort. But a lot had happened in twelve years too. They wanted to give my cousins a better future. Uncle came over first with both kids. Aunt sold their business and followed. My cousin Jimmy cooked at a Chinese restaurant. Michelle was finishing college.
Knowing how frugal they must have been, they took me to the Revolving Restaurant in the city for dinner. The view from the Revolving Restaurant was incredible but what was more precious was spending time with them again.
Our family gatherings always involved endless eating. That was how we enjoyed life. This was not different. Instead of going out, we had hot pot for dinner on a different night. I hadn’t had hot-pot in a while which was delicious, familiar, and sentimental.
My cousin and aunt took me to the airport. I regretted having such a short trip. I was amazing at how fast time went by. I was glad that I took the trip to visit them and caught up with them once again. I was amazed at how much they seemed different but familiar at the same time. My “little” cousins had all grown up. The two children were able to live and stayed close to their parents. I hoped I didn’t wait for another twelve years to see them again.
Shortly after Vancouver, I went to Los Angeles to see my other uncle. My dad’s youngest brother had gotten married after Dad and I left Taipei. I had never met this aunt before nor my youngest cousin Julie.
Seeing my uncle at the airport, I felt so emotional. I remembered when we were both still in Taipei, he went to Japan and brought home a table of little things. He told me, “You can pick one for yourself. Any one!” He was always generous with us kids. He was still as humored as I remembered him to be. I met my aunt and cousin and they welcomed me with kindness. Again, we did a lot of eating and catching up. Here, I learned about my aunt and cousin. I also met my step-cousins.
At this time, I was the only person in Dad’s family who had reconnected with everyone again. To my uncles and aunt, I would always be the little girl they held in their arms in Taipei. The first baby in my generation. Since these trips, I made a conscious effort to stay in touch with both families. I attended both my cousin’s wedding in Vancouver. When both families downsized again, I visited them again. A few years later, Dad and his brothers, and their wives had also met up.
I found something important I lost. I knew better now.