I started my week on Saturday and will be ending it on Sunday. It began with the thrashing of the broom, sponge, cleanser, and a prayer with sage smoke. Intensely studying Mandarin in high school and taking great risks with anxiety, my son suggested we offer our home for a week to an exchange student from China. “Yes,” I said with an underlying fear that we wouldn’t be good enough, since we are described by my son as “not your average family.” We also live in an economically poor community with trailer housing surrounding our landscape. With these insecurities we prepared to do our best. I diligently shopped at the market for foods I can prepare well. I shared with the cashier how excited I was about our student coming and she insisted I make him Chinese food. I replied, “No. He has requested potatoes, anything.”
Today is the fifth day of our visitor’s stay. He is my son this week. He is a brother as well. For his first meal, we had dinner at a 50’s style mom and pop diner. Though he speaks English, it was a very quiet and mumbled discussion about the condiments for his burger. We have taken him to sacred Native American dwellings and petroglyphs to share the significance of our history. We have introduced him to pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and last night he ate and made his first burrito. He has tried French fries, baked potatoes, and red potatoes with green chiles. I explained to him the intricacies of sweet consumption and fasting before Lent, as he rejected each sweet we offered, excepting the raspberry chocolate my littlest, my four year old, gave to him.
We have three more days with our son and brother. He has gifted us with loose leaf black tea and, for my littlest, two beautiful monkeys, in celebration of the Spring Festival in China. I have learned that spoken language is a small part of the picture and that food speaks louder. I have learned that a child without siblings or cousins can be thrilled to meet and play “shop” with a four year old; the only child theory is out the window. His youth and journey have brought us a deeper joy in our own relations with one another. Across oceans we can gather, eat, and maybe sit on the floor for a game of Candyland. It all comes down to risk and hope. I am glad I said yes.