• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 04
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We were watching Sound of Music - you know when Julie Andrews walks on a mountaintop like she's in a trance and blares: "The hills are aaaaliiive with the sound of music…"

It was our usual Christmas thing. Help mum with the pineapple tarts and then we get to watch this holiday classic.

We were a little factory. Mum imprinted the pastry and where there's an indentation, my older sister dolloped in the jam, I used tiny pincers to make the edging fluted and my little sister would cut maraschino cherries into even smaller bits to press into the jam. We would also interchange our jobs. I can still taste the sweetness of the pineapple pulp mingled with the flaky crustiness of my mother's butter pastry. Everything is Christmas in those tarts.

Of the Von Trapps, I imagined myself as the dark-haired middle-ish one, Brigitta. She seemed a little feisty and not-blond. Like the Von Trapps, we had to escape an increasingly hostile country and migrated. And, we lived near mountains.

I tried so hard to fit in. I forgot our native language, hung out with "white" girls and spoke like a true American. No accent. I was a natural mimic. To this day, my sister, who was about 12 when we left, still has a tiny lilt that denotes another history. It's like an audio file that refuses to be deleted. Most people are shocked to find out, I wasn't born in the U.S. of A.

I avoided the other Asian kids for fear of being grouped as a "chinky town" as the kids would taunt me with. I wanted to rip open my skin and show them my insides - just like yours you rude, little shit.



"My mother doesn't want me to play with chinks," spat out another boy.

I took on the cloak of Americanism: loud, brash, talk-backy. It's like set of protective clothing: I'm not FOB. I talk and walk like you! I eat steak! Look at me!

"Why you talk like that? I never taught you to be like that." Mum hit me with a wooden spoon on the head. That's mum --- very old-school.

One day, we had a field trip to the mountains. My white friends and I were pretty much beginners. After a set of lessons the day before, they wanted to try the diamond run. Up and up and up, we took the ski lift. The clouds got thinner. I was scared.

They were really gung-ho. I feared the speed and, well, death. I could hear my mother: "Why you do such a stupid thing?"

Staring down at the white vertical, my heart yelped like an animal about to be sacrificed. Holy shit.

"Woo hoo! Let's goooooooooo!"

They disappeared. Voom. I was alone with Fear. I needed to be Just. Like. Them.

Steeling my poles against the ground. I pushed. I could be as stupid as they were.

"I go to the hills when my heart is lonely…"