I touch your face the same way I touched those books so many years ago— with yearning, with remembering, reaching for a time, sketching out a place, imagining a moment and a feeling that I had not yet met and likely never would. The books contained language, contained a possibility, but could they speak with the same intonations as my cousins? Those conjugations and pronouns tasted like new paper and old ways, but the scent of the world after I got off the plane those few summers ago and stepped into that sunlight smelled like vibrant and unabashed life, felt like tradition made lively again, tradition made new, tradition made family, made home. Because the tradition that warmed my hands as I reached out from underneath the shade of the palms, the tradition that was the eyes I saw in the streets, the faces that looked like mine, peppered in between the light clay walls and falling terracotta shingles, was not tradition, really, at all. It was memory, a sinuous thing, thready, dip your hands in it, make lumpia the way they’ve been making it since the start, sing songs in the same tones as your great-grandmother. Memory, held by the water, held by the minds, by the people and their hands, and waiting to be held by mine.
MiC Columnist Dani Shave can be reached at email@example.com.