You wouldn't know it from my Instagram feed, but I didn’t grow up climbing mountains or frolicking in flower-lined meadows. Instead of chubby marmots crossing my path, I got to marvel at bony, stray dogs in search of scraps they could call a meal. I grew up in a poor small city in a third-world country in Asia, where the smell of roadside barbecue was more a thing than the smell of fresh pine.
My grandmother used to let me tag along on her afternoon drives with my grandfather and their two favorite dogs—at the time they had 12 I believe— all five of us piled into her tiny white souped up Toyota Corolla. I didn’t realize back then that my timid, conservative grandmother was driving around in the equivalent of a track car. To me, it was just mama’s tiny white car that always smelled like a mixture of old spice, pomade, and old dogs.
I treasured those afternoon drives. We would drive down to the pier where commercial shipping barges would dock, just to be close to the water. To us it was a scenic, relaxing outing, as we plowed through rush hour traffic, smog, and sticky air. We would get out of the car once we reached the pier to take in the smell of polluted salt water peppered with garbage, as it lapped against the mossy cement pylons. Those were the warm, dusky summer evenings of my childhood that I will remember until I no longer can.
I love you Mama. Thank you for being in my life for as long as you were able. It is too surreal to process that you are gone, and that I am no longer that seven year old. So let me stay here a while with you, as we stand along the chain-link fence, fingers entwined, and listen to the lapping water.