Sunday, November 8, 2015

Maple Park Next to Grandparents' Home

    The scenery around my grandparents' home was beautiful. My grandparents owned a hotel across the street from Solpei County's Maple Park in Chanti. Two wide gray, limestone walkways ran across the rectangular park. There was a pond at the center of the park from which the Fujitai River flowed upstream. A five story tall cotton tree stood at the corner. In the summer, the cotton tree flowered and cotton flakes fell like drifts of snow. My older brother, Francis, and I stayed with my grandparents, Aunt Jen and her daughter, Ana, for two weeks when I was ten while my parents went on a tour abroad. Aunt Jen was a professional nurse, but she helped at the hotel for a while. This visit was the only time in a year when my brother and I got away from our piano and violin lessons.

    It was a county fair day late afternoon when my parents dropped us off there. I learned it was not the first time we had visited the park. They later showed me a photo of myself stuffing my cheeks with candy while sitting next to the pond, but I was too young to remember the other times we had visited. Aunt Jen and Grandmother took us to the park which was packed with people. At the entrance, beverages, cotton candies, craft dolls, and alike were sold to tourists. Francis and I tried not to talk to any strangers. Some girls, who looked classy and flawless and sophisticated, stared at us when I watched them passing by. We thought all the other families were strange and poor even if they sometimes had newer shoes. I wondered where they bought their bamboo picnic baskets. We approached the cotton candy stand and Aunt Jen said, "Two, please," to the vendor, and we each got our cotton candy. Aunt Jen also bought us orange soda, which my mother prohibited. Bursting in my throat, the cold sweet bubbles were phenomenal. I learned my brother liked the orange soda a few years later.

    We walked along a walkway to the pond while I watched the limestone pattern change to different contemporary abstract patterns. An artist connected leg and arm patterns interlocked and I tried to step on the leg patterned stones. My grandmother liked to pick up flower seeds. "I've never seen such an enormous seed, maybe it's not for a flower", she said to Aunt Jen as she put it in her pocket. The pond was full of pink Lotus flowers. Francis thought there must be fish in the pond and tossed a cookie morsel into the water. Some black and red Koi approached and swallowed the morsel. The ripple of the water diffused from its mouth. I took another piece of cookie to feed the fish and tried to grab it when it approached, but the Koi was slippery and I only touched it. The Lotus leaves were all waxed on the top. In the sun, water drops shined from the wax contact. My hand smelled like soil mixed with algae, much like the smell when we helped my mother garden at home.

    Ana was in second grade and I knew we, the more advanced ones, must be very appealing to her. We invented a "Taekwan-Wrestling" game and showed Ana we have to step our feet on the maple trunk and jump to boost our "Energy". She couldn't help but join us in the new game. Francis helped her every time she was about to lose a round of a jump. Aunt Jen and Grandmother rested in the gazebo next to the pond to watch us play. Swallows started to fly in large flocks, and sparrows started to whistle really loudly when the sun was about to set. We continued our wrestling match in Grandparents' home with a dozen different styles of "energy boosting." The pseudo south pacific residences did not have bed frames; mattresses were all laid on the wood floor making them perfect for wrestling. The adults were overwhelmed with us in the house. My grandmother wanted us to watch "Weekend 2100" TV variety show with Grandfather and we finally calmed down.

    Francis spend the whole two weeks reading three Sherlock Holmes books; and I dug out pieces of cardboard and styrofoam from the hotel's dumpster to build gliders. I struggled to build a glider that flew in a zig-zag pattern. Aunt Jen asked me why I made the glider fly that way. I explained confidently to her "The center of gravity is supposed to be located here for a stable flight," as I pointed at the fuselage. "If I control  the wing's movement toward the head of the plane, it will lose lift and I have a silicon integrated circuit, which can form a periodic movement of the wing in the wind, which can dramatically change the flight pattern of different concepts." It was over my head, and I lost my point, but she asked me "Is that how they make micro capsule controllers and all the decoding in James Bond?" I lowered my voice and nodded "Y-e-a-h". I went to the park almost every day, though avoiding the weekend crowd, to test my glider. Some really green trees were trimmed to form a neat fence around the park. I swept my right hand along the top of the trees and felt the smooth needles after being trimmed by the gardener every time I walked along the side of the park.

    My mother's other younger sister, Aunt Edna, was only eleven years older than me. She went to college and wasn't with my grandparents in the summer. We used her room and slept there. I browsed through her books and read two pages of her college psychology book and learned that most people have auditory hallucination, hearing a voice that does not exist, right before they fall asleep. The book also said that most people don't realize that it is happening and ignore it. One night, we turned on her radio next to the bed. The radio was last tuned to a classical music station when Aunt Edna left for college. One of the pieces they played was a piano solo, and the music was as soothing as Johann Sebastian Bach's "Man's Desiring." There were visitors leaving the park late at night. Some cars passed by projecting their head lights through the windows forming triangles flying across the ceiling. I wondered if the people in the cars felt the same kind of peace I did. Then I heard some classmate call my name , "John." I though it must be the girl who I liked in school. It wasn't. But, the college psychology text book was right, and I fell asleep shortly after.