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The work of their hands

May 5th, 2004 · No Comments


My children call him A-yeh. He stands in our kitchen, wrapper in one hand, knife in the other. With rhythm he measures from the bowl a precise amount of meat, a pink mixture of pork and shrimp he carefully prepared with the cleaver, and then he works the thin skin around it, folding won-ton. Again and again he takes a wrapper from the stack, scrapes the knife across the square, folds and tucks the skin into the familiar shape. He works until he finishes, fingers white with powder, wrapping meat into tidy bundles, raw won-ton multiplying on rows across the countertop. Michaela pulls up a chair to stand and watch her grandfather. This is one of the ways I remember my father-in-law. This is one of his gifts. The way he works with his hands and makes won-ton for his family.

A-ma sits across the room at the dining table. She and Abigail are folding papers. A-ma makes tables, chairs, fish tails, fish heads, lion heads and two types of boats. The pile of Ted’s scrap paper, technical notes and scribbles, is transformed into toys. She is careful with the folds, teaching Abigail how to fashion a fish head. I try to learn from her. I make a few chairs. I try to make boats but I make mistakes. I wonder if I should watch her instead of trying to learn all her secrets. If I should simply enjoy her art, what she learned as a child in China, her gift to my children here and now. Some of the shapes she made for Abigail two years ago are still in my daughter’s art box collection. The girls love what A-ma makes for them, keeping them as treasures.

A-ma and A-yeh are leaving on this morning. They are leaving behind a pile of won-ton in the freezer and an assortment of folded paper creations in boxes. They are leaving behind the work of their hands.


Tags: family