It’s been a little over a week since our plane touched down on Formosan soil and the sluggish haze that comes with traveling halfway around the world has finally cleared out of my head. Jetlag has officially left the building and I can finally say, “I’m back!” Back in Taiwan. Back at work. Back to my students, friends and family abroad. Back to the life that I started almost fifteen years ago when I decided to run away to Taiwan. It pleases me to say that I am glad to be here. (I’d be a bit of a masochist if I weren’t!) I quite enjoy the ease of life that Taiwan affords my family and me and I am sincere when I say that Taiwan is where we should be. For now, it is home.
Alas, nothing good in life comes for free. Over the years I have come to understand that there is always a hidden cost to every pleasure, joy or success that we receive. I accept that there is a need for a little tsuris (grief) with our naches (pleasure). It helps to maintain a sort of karmic balance. It’s also true that a little bitterness allows us to better appreciate the sweetness with which we have been blessed. Nevertheless, all the wisdom, rationalization and understanding means bubkis (nothing) during the instance when your karmic taxes are being levied. At that moment, it is common and quite natural to second guess yourself and question whether or not the blessing you have received is really a blessing at all.
For me, this moment came seconds before we pulled out of the train station in Cornwall. There my parents stood outside the train looking up, straining to see us through the tinted windows. My father, in his playful way, waved and danced in the cold breeze putting a grin on Siaya’s face. His antics, I am sure, were more than just an attempt to amuse my daughter. I believe he was trying desperately to calm the tight ball of sadness that was surely choking the life out of him.
My mother, unfortunately, had no defense against the thick coat of grief that seemed to have enveloped her. Tears, born from the breaking of her heart, dripped down her cheeks and splashed at her feet. I was reminded of my Grandma Betty. She too would stand with tears trickling down her soft, sagging cheeks as we left her at the end of another holiday. And like my grandmother, I am sure my mom remained frozen in the same spot for a minute or two after we glided out of view, her heart aching for the warmth of family that was pressed against her bosom a few moments before.
This was my moment of hesitation, the moment when I had to wonder if it was time to make a change. And then as I watched my father chase our train down the tracks, another attempt at some comic relief, I looked over at my wife and little girl. I thought about the life we were returning too and realized that, for now at least, it was where we were (are) meant to be. And so I swallowed hard on the bitter lump that had settled painfully in my throat and looked forward towards the blessings that we would continue to receive.
While I was at home one afternoon, my mom, Rachel, Siaya and I (My dad, it seems, was the only smart one that day.) took a day trip to Zellers for some shopping fun. (Ya….) As I watched Siaya poke through the toy section, I was treated to one of my favorite songs, Walking in Memphis, by Marc Cohn. Despite its obvious musical appeal, this song has a deeper, more significant meaning for me. Every time I hear this song I am brought back to our house in Cornwall. The odd thing is I don’t really understand the connection. Even more strange is the fact that I always return to the same day. It is a bright, crisp winter’s afternoon. The radiance of the sun is beaming off of the gold carpeting which covers our floors. The fresh scent of potted greenery fills the air with life and a still sort of adrenalin. My daydream ends with me padding up from the basement and basking in the tender embrace of home.
Walking in Memphis reminds me of the legacy that my parents have passed down to my brother and me. It inspires me to create with my family the most important blessing a spouse and parent can provide – a home.
Walking in Memphis youtube link