Old Memories Essay, Research Paper
“I put your red sweater under your flannel shirt. The red one is warmer than the gray one so wear it when the temperature gets low. Inside the black plastic bag is some medicine. These are for cold and flu. Take them when you don’t feel well. If you start coughing, take those green capsules plus one of these yellow antibiotics. Remember, just one. They are really strong. Don’t take those white tablets during the day because they make you feel drowsy. But if you . . . ” “Mom, I know, I know,” I said impatiently. It was August 2000, a few days before I left home for college. Mom tried to squeeze everything that I might need into the boxes she took from Safeway. I watched her putting things in, taking them out, and then putting them back again to make sure that things stacked on one another as perfectly as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Finally she was convinced that no one could squeeze even one more molecule into any of the boxes, and she looked satisfied. My things stuck out of the top like the stomach of a three-hundred pound beer drinker. The picture of things jumping out like Jack in the box when I opened the boxes ran through my mind quickly like a five-second cartoon. “I am not going to take those with me,” I thought. In my mind, I was thinking about how those people in the PBS travel programs always fascinated me. I often imagined myself traveling in different countries with a single backpack hanging on my back that showed so much carefree leisure and mature independence. I could sleep in a park or in a subway station because a true traveler could feel at home anywhere. The idea of carrying some awkward luggage simply did not appeal to me. I also thought she worried too much. After all, I was eighteen years old and already graduated from high school. I had learned many things from books and I knew how to deal with different people. Her “you-are-still-a-little-girl” tone sometimes irritated me, and her doubt of my ability made me more eager to prove myself. Therefore with much confidence I left, like a young bird flying from the nest, without even looking back at its aging parents.
College life was, as I had expected, full of exciting events and people. The innovative ideas and the wealth of knowledge of my professors and classmates impressed me. The city itself fascinated me with its freedom in the atmosphere and the exchange of the newest ideas in its small cafes. I observed my surroundings with hungry eyes, hunting for excitement, yet something else surprised me more. I found myself getting lost and my life a little out of control. In the morning there was no longer someone watching and making sure that I got up on time for the classes. I would wake up and find that my first class was over half an hour ago. Borrowing notes and making up missed work always made me feel that I was trying to catch an airplane by riding a bicycle. I also discovered that many things did not just “happen”; they had to be “done.” At home, the only thing that I had to do with dirty clothes was to throw them into a basket. They would disappear automatically and then appear inside the drawers the next day–folded, clean and with the faint scent of fabric softener. Now the magic no longer worked. The pile of dirty clothes would just get higher and higher unless I carried them to the laundry room and fed the white machines some quarters. At home, a cold or a flu was nothing dreadful. When I was sick, I only had to transform myself into a three-year-old baby. Then if I wanted candies, candies would appear in front of me. If I needed a cold pack, it would be placed on my forehead. Now nothing could just be pulled out of the air, and the world was no different from what it was because I was sick. The rules were the rules. I still had to take tests and turn in papers even when my brain was not functioning under a fever of 105 degrees Fahrenheit and my sinuses were more congested than New York City’s traffic. Everything had become my responsibility. I could blame the alarm clock for not ringing loud enough or accuse the flu viruses for attacking me, but the fact that I missed classes and got sick did not change. I was still responsible for everything. There was no way out. No wonder people used the term “homesick.” It was indeed a chronic disease, a perpetual obsession. When I was eating my tenth bagel of the week, the smell of the steaming white rice and the pepper in the sour soup of Mom’s home cooking and how they used to stimulate my nose and taste buds suddenly became vivid sensations. When I got out of the library at 11:30 p.m. and walked freezingly in the night air, the picture of the yellow light emitted from our cozy living room and the cream-colored couch where I spent much of my couch potato life there appeared in my mind. The desire to have a cup of hot cocoa and allowing the brown liquid to run all the way down through esophagus to the empty stomach became some unattainable dream. When my roommate turned on her superpower digital stereo to the maximum volume and the screaming voice of some hyper heavy metal singer filled our crowded dorm room, my little bedroom with Chopin’s piano music seemed to become a lost dream. Where was I going to find those old memories, and when was I going to experience them again? After sacrificing two million brain cells on some stormy December days for the final exams and term papers, I returned home for a break. There was a certain strangeness and awkwardness when I met Mom in the Houston International Airport. Maybe it was because I had been away for almost four months (My highest record in the past was six days). People wearing cowboy hats and shiny belt buckles looked almost like aliens to me. The sight of the oil wells along the highways and the red burning sun sitting on the horizon brought back some unfamiliar familiarity. The sky was getting dark and we moved silently on the sun-stained orange highway. In an hour we reached our neighborhood, and Mom drove the car slowly down the winding streets, passing the shadows of high-roof houses one by one. The smell of grass from the freshly mowed lawns was floating in the air. It was the week before Christmas. The yellow, red, green, and blue little bulbs in the yard and on the door of every house emitted small circles of soft, cozy light in the fermenting holiday atmosphere. In many houses the curtains of the tall windows were drawn to the sides and the green Christmas trees with white-wing angels on the top stood inside the windows. The chimneys stood erect on the roofs, inviting and welcoming their white-beard visitor from the North Pole. As I watched the things outside the car window passing by, the strange feeling suddenly began to disappear, and something warm and salty was forming in my eyes. I turned around and looked at Mom again, as though I was making a final confirmation. Then the eyes could no longer hold the thing that was rushing out from inside of me, yet I smiled.
I was home.