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My eleven-year-old son has the responsibility of watering all of the plants the backyard, in pots on the deck, and in the front. He complains each time, but he does it. Lately, he asks, “Who’s going to watch me in front?” We’ve never let our kids be outside in front of our house by themselves. But these days, my son asks because he’s discovering what it means to be afraid. So I stand on the front steps watching him, correcting the way he waters the plants.
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I walked past a kind of fool’s gold in South China Plaza; plastic bobble-headed cats nodded ni hao in windows full of glittering souvenir kitsch, inviting my gaze to skim the surface. Crossing Cermak Road and feeling unnerved by the sense of culture up for sale, I spotted a blue-eyed Siamese cat peeking its head out of the shop door at 243 West Cermak. Above the cat was a sign: “Nam Bac Hang.” Entering the tiny shop, I saw rows of boxes with Chinese characters written on them, and glass jars filled with mushrooms and dried herbs. Locals were walking up to the counter asking for tea and formulas for their colds and allergies. Curious, I asked a young man standing nearby about the nature of the shop; he told me it was owned by his father, Long Huynh, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine whose family traces their healing lineage back to the days of the emperor in ancient China. Intrigued, I sat down with Long Huynh to ask him about his family’s history, qi, and his medicine. Continue reading
At the Y last week, updating my single membership to a family one, I saw my beige hand writing the word black for my son’s race. Not biracial, not black and white, though that would have been accurate, as he is my biological son and I am Irish American. Continue reading