The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

They will always return

My grandparents come and go
Provided by Serena Li
In 2006, Chinese New Year took place on Jan. 29. My grandmother was 61 and my grandfather was 65 at the time.

As soon as I hop off the school bus, my grandparents greet me with smiles on their faces, waiting to walk me home.

My grandmother is wearing a striped sweater and plaid pants, and the patterns clash horribly. My grandfather has his favorite 49ers baseball cap on, the one he wears almost every day.

Two months later, they pack their things, all their clothes and souvenirs. With them goes my grandmother’s sewing supplies, which she uses to mend all my torn clothes, and her wonderful cooking, a symbol of my childhood; with them goes my grandfather’s ever-present stack of newspapers from the Chinese market and his wise advice, a steady presence in my life. With them goes a part of my home. They are leaving to return to China.

But I am not worried. I know they will come back.

Story continues below advertisement

A year later, my parents took me to the airport. I am giddy with excitement. Unable to stand still, I repeatedly ask my mom, “How much longer? How much longer?”

When my grandparents walk around the corner of the airport hallway, I cannot stop myself from running toward them. As my grandmother wraps her arms around me, her embrace fills me with warmth, and I hear my grandfather’s laughter echoing in my ears. A puzzle piece slots into place.

A part of me is back.

My grandmother teaches me how to make dumplings. She tells me she has been doing it since she was my age, which is why she’s so good at it. But I am only 9, and it is inevitable that I get disappointed when my dumplings turn out disastrous. She is patient, coaching me through each step again, reaching over to correct my many mistakes.

My grandparents got married in China in 1971. Two years later, they had their first and only child, my mother, in 1973. (Provided by Serena Li)

But when they are ready to eat, all the frustration washes away as I taste my grandmother’s dumplings: warm, savory and so comforting.

I just recently turned 10 when my grandfather, who was a Chinese teacher, insists that I learn how to write in Chinese. But I am hesitant to learn because I know how complicated it is. He writes each character slowly, letting me copy them one by one. He kindly points out when my stroke order or position was wrong.

At my mom’s suggestion, I write him a thank-you card in Chinese. He pins it on his wall when they go back to China.

And yes, they go back, like they always do. But I am not too sad because I know they will be back.

My dad suggests I FaceTime them on my 11th birthday, but my grandparents have never used FaceTime before. I have to explain how it works to them, and when my grandmother picks up, I can only see the top half of her face on the screen.

I finally had the chance to teach them the way they always had. They taught me Chinese and writing skills, and I introduced them to a world of technology they didn’t have growing up.

She tells me about the TV show she’s watching, the new supermarket that just opened, what she ate for breakfast. I tell her about my performance in the talent show, the math test I just took, what we had for dinner.

My grandfather, the same as always, recounts the stories he read in the newspaper, memory still surprisingly good for his age. He gives me a lot of critiques on the essay I wrote for Chinese class. Clearly, my Chinese skills still need a lot of work.

Of course I miss them. Every time I get to spend six months reunited with them, having to get to know them all over again. Then they are abruptly torn away from me over and over.
But I am always hopeful because I know they’ll come back.

My grandparents and I sit on the couch in our living room in 2011, when I was three years old. My grandfather is feeding me porridge. (Provided by Serena Li)

In March of 2020, the pandemic officially hits us. My grandparents’ plans to visit in two months are immediately canceled. With quarantine and online school as seventh grade begins, I have bigger problems to worry about.

I am only 12, trapped at home for the foreseeable future. It isn’t until the following months that it finally hits me: I wouldn’t be able to see them again for a long time.

I didn’t know it would be five years.

Long after the pandemic died down in America, with people no longer wearing masks or social distancing, my grandparents still couldn’t come because of the health risks. It wasn’t even until this year that they decided it was finally safe to visit again.

In the summer of 2024, I will have my long-awaited reunion with my grandparents. But this time, they will obtain their green cards and stay in the US instead of going back. They will be here when I turn 16, when I graduate high school, when I leave for college.

It’s been five years.

But I can wait a little longer. Because I know they will always return.

View Comments (2)
More to Discover

Comments (2)

All Three Penny Press Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    Amy BrandewieApr 16, 2024 at 9:14 am

    This is a beautiful story.

  • A

    AngelApr 15, 2024 at 9:09 pm

    Great story Serena! It was beautifully written.