Ming Mei’s Year

At the beginning of spring, our family visits the cemetery.

“Qing Ming is the time when Chinese families pay their respects to the ancestors in the spirit world,” Mama explains.

When we arrive at the graveyard, my cousin Calvin and I dash ahead of the grown-ups. We trample across the cushiony grass field toward our grandfather’s grave. Lao Lao, my grandmother, calls out in Mandarin, “Ming Mei, put on your sweater.” She holds out my sweater. It flaps like a flag on a pole.

The wind is strong; it whistles loudly, as though it has something to say.

The daffodils that we planted around grandfather’s tombstone last year are now in full bloom.

“Yellow was Lao Ye’s favourite colour,” Uncle tells me and Calvin. “He said it reminded him of sunshine and happiness.”

Mama sweeps dirt away from the tombstone. Lao Lao clears away some leaves and twigs. Uncle lays out food. Calvin reaches for a shrimp dumpling, but Uncle shoos his hand away. The dian xin is for Lao Ye in the spirit world.

We lay out a roast chicken and cha shao. Pieces of poppy-red barbeque pork glisten in the sunlight.

Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 4. Purchase the book to read the full piece.

Toronto locations referenced in this piece

“Ms. Russo drives the bus down Spadina Avenue, past the tall buildings, over the bridge and onto the highway . . . ” —Spadina Ave.