You were the first person to ever punch me. You don’t play around when you hit because you hit hard. You’d hit on the shoulder, on the knee, on the leg, until I had bruises for days. I would cry and you would stop but you would not apologize because I was the one who stole your favorite pencil and then broke it. I was the one who chewed the head off your doll. You did apologize when you hurt me. You did apologize when you made a mistake, but not before. You taught me about punishments and you taught me about just rewards. You made me popcorn when I concussed myself falling off the bannisters and you never asked me for anything back because you gave me everything unconditionally.
You don’t believe in birthdays. You don’t believe in Christmas. You see every day as one of the 365 you have to get through to count it as another year. And yet, you made me a book of quotes for my 10th birthday with a message that told me to be myself. You suffered the tinsel around the house come December and ripped open a Christmas cracker with me because you know what is important to me, even if it isn’t to you.
You told me about my culture. You taught me the importance of my mother tongue, of my language, of the history of my ancestors that a girl might forget when she migrates to another continent at the age of three. You are the reason I have such pride in my black hair and yellow skin. You are the reason I still speak Chinese.
You are my teacher. You were the one to lend me my first books. You are the reason I fell in love with literature, and thus why I fell in love with writing. You are the reason for my dream of being a writer. You started that, you know. You gave me music. You sparked my love of art, of beauty, of life. You watered me while I was a seed and this is why I have grown into this kind of plant.
When I think of courage, I think of you. When I think of love, I think of you. When I think of respect, I think of you. You are a pioneer and you are so good at being the older sister, I almost think you were born just to guide me. Maybe you don’t know what you’re doing when you do it. Maybe it’s innate. But you will never be the one to pull me back up when I have fallen low, because you know that’s not how I learn. You don’t believe in the easy way out. You choose the hard road, the long road. But you will always be standing there waiting with both hands outstretched when I have found my own way.
If you were sentimental enough, I would say this to your face. I would hug you because even though I’ve caught up to you in height, you still make me feel like a little girl. But you believe in practicality over metaphor. You would not have the patience for me to tell you this in person, nor the time. So I’ll say this quietly and so softly you might never hear it because I hope you already know. I’ll say it in the way I worry for you when you haven’t been in contact for a while. I’ll say it at night when I whisper your blessings into darkness that swallows up my words. I’ll say nothing at all because there’s nothing left when you try to articulate something more than gratitude.