Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in. -- Robert Frost
When I was about four, mom was trying to make it in town, dad was teaching far
away, and I lived with my grand parents and an uncle who was about to marry.
Weddings promised fun and profit, especially for the kids at the bride's side.
Adults took us seriously as we turned the gate into a toll booth. We collected
hongbaos (dimes and nickles in small red envelops) and candies to our hearts'
content before letting the groom pass.
I was with the groom this time. But that didn't prevent me from enjoying the
candies, fireworks, and feasts. After the excitments settled, a new aunt joined us. I
was first shy but she was friendly. I became impish: "Aunt, you are my uncle's
new bride." and she blushed.
Tall and strong, aunt could beat the guys in tilling the land. She worked hard
and took a big load off uncle and grandpa. She respected the elders and was
easygoing. Everyone said we were lucky to have her.
The two of us hit it off from the start. She would take me to fairs on weekends,
bring me good stuff to eat from the farm, and put me on the top tube of the
family bicycle and visit her parents in a nearby village. When I was in trouble,
she and grandma came first to the rescue. Later, she had two kids of her own
but never stopped loving me.
Her life was not easy, however, and toiling in the fields was only part of it.
Uncle passed away in midlife and she took care of grandma till the end. My
cousin's career took off late and he married only recently. Aunt was still waiting
for grand kids. Endless worries.
She just got a smartphone and tried to call me--we hadn't talked for months.
Her hair grayed but her face was ruddy and her smile just as warm. She worried
about the three of us in America after watching the Covid news. I sent her a
picture and said Tim's ears took after my cousin's. She mistook it right away and
asked if Tim had hearing problems too. She didn't mention dad (who passed away
in Apr) but said in tears "I just want you to know that you always have a place
in my house."
I didn't expect any sympathy for a 47-year-old orphan but that just killed me.