Everyone my age is bemoaning their age. I teeter ever closer towards being thirty. I’m not worried about how old I am but sometimes, something jolts me and I think about age, about time passing, about memory, and, as ever, about me.
My eldest nephew is 18. I did not do anything for his 18th. Did not send him a card nor even an email. Oops. In my defence, I thought he was turning 17 this year. Obviously, I am wrong. He finishes high school soon. He has a girlfriend. He’s probably, you know, doing the dirty. We are friends on Facebook and I am loving how proud and subversive he is about his Asianness. He tags ‘FOB’ rolls (banh mi thit aka pork salad rolls; FOB stands for Fresh Off the Boat. I only learnt that a few years ago, from Sume). He is surrounded by Asian faces in his photos; I wonder, if I had as many close Asian friends when I was in high school as he has, would I have been as comfortable with my Asianness as he appears to be with his?
This does not make me feel old. It makes me feel the passing of time. Although, perhaps, I am just playing with words there. I don’t feel any negativity, is all I am saying. When people say they feel old, they are using old as a perjorative. Yes, I feel my age (though I don’t often behave it, so I am told). But I don’t feel it as a bad thing. I feel the weight of history, when I discover my nephew is 18. Eighteen!?
I remember his birth, quite clearly. I remember the first few photos of him sent to me by his proud parents. I am astounded 18 years could have passed. I have to resist doing things such as sighing about what a cute baby he was (and he was) and remarking on how he was as small as a teddy bear, once (I have the photograph to prove it).
I lived with him and his parents for a short period of time when I was the age he is now: the age of asserting adulthood. That time feels both far away and not so long ago.
When I was his age, a newly discovered older cousin told me, sighingly, how he remembered me when I was as long as his forearm. My tart, witty response? I don’t remember you from then.
When I was his age, I threatened his father, my eldest brother, that I would jump out of his moving car and then telephone our father if he took me to a function and left me there on my own. I did not want to go. My brother promised to remain at the function with me.
When I was his age, I lied to my parents about not crying when I phoned them on Tet to say hi and chuc mung nam moi and what are you doing and do you miss me and yes, it’s cold in Melbourne.
Things have not changed so much. I still resort to snarky comments when I cannot think of how to make conversation with someone because they say something to which there is no response (and to pre-empt you: no, polite but ambiguous silence is just not an option (for me)). I still use guerilla tactics on my siblings when I don’t want to do something they want me to do. And I still lie to my parents, partially through pride, partially through not wanting to let them know I’m sad or struggling or sick or … anything negative, really. Ha. I ain’t so grown up. But I must have, right, because …
He’s 18. Can you believe it?