華安上小學第一天，我和他手牽著手，穿過好幾條街， 到維多利亞小學。九月初，家家戶戶院子裡的蘋果和梨樹都綴滿了拳頭大小的果子，枝芽因爲負重而沉沉下垂， 越出了樹籬， 勾到過路行人的頭髮。
On Hua An’s first day of school, we walked hand in hand through several streets to get to Victoria Elementary. It was early September, and in yard after yard, apple and pear trees hung heavy with fist-sized fruit. Branches drooped from the weight, escaping fences and catching passersby’s hair.
At the school, children packed the playground waiting for first bell, their small hands curled inside mom’s and dad’s, their timid looks sizing up their surroundings. These were graduates of kindergarten, yet they still hadn’t learned this truth: that the end of one thing is always the beginning of another.
The bell rang. Immediate confusion. Everyone scattered in different directions. But in that tangle of people, my eyes stayed glued to my own child’s back as he walked away—the way one can home in on one’s own child among the sound of a hundred babies crying. Hua An, with his multicolored backpack, walked on, but he kept turning to look back at me, as if he were crossing some boundless river of time and space, his gaze and mine meeting in that vast emptiness.
I watched his small figure disappear through a doorway.
Fast forward to age sixteen, when he went to the U.S. as an exchange student. I took him to the airport. While saying goodbye, he gave me a perfunctory hug. With my head reaching only his chest, I felt as if I were hugging a giraffe’s leg. He made no effort to hide how hard he was working to endure his mother’s affections.
He waited in a long line to have his passport inspected; I stood outside, watching as he inched forward. Finally he was at the head of the line. A moment at the customs counter, took his passport back, slipped through a doorway, and suddenly he was gone.
I’d waited—waited for a quick turn of his head before he disappeared. But he hadn’t turned, not even once.