Rewriting History — Going Off Script
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I couldn’t tell you the name of the streets I walked as a child.
Don’t need to. I can describe the Tetris-like enclave of broken curbs, windowless doorways, souvenir shops and Hunan, Szechuan, and what-not restaurants, like the profile of my first puppy love.
Many of the buildings showcase new paint jobs, but one characteristic doesn’t fade.
Filling In The Blanks
The Chinese Hospital, my first destination of the day, was built in 1925. It was built to replace the Tung Wah Dispensary, after it was destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. The San Francisco Chinese Hospital is the first and only Chinese hospital in America.
I was in a hurry to find that hospital. I needed to see it.
Like that hospital, I have history here. I was first spotted on this planet in that building. Bits and parts of me have been destroyed by shakes and levelings too, but not the kind that registers on a Richter scale.
I don’t know what I’d find by going there. But, it was important to me to stand in the doorway of where my story began.
It is time to rebuild.
I needed to see as much as I could of the past. I prayed to look back on it with new eyes.
A part of me has always believed, The past already happened. Why go back?
This time, God prompted me to imagine differently. You’ve missed seeing me in it. Let me fill in the blanks.
God, tell me what I need to know.
Maybe I sound like some crystal-seeking hippie, driving in a beat up Jeep through the deserts to Sedona, but I seriously believed God had something special for me — in those first moments of seeing my birthplace.
I had no idea what thoughts or emotions would define this journey for me. But, I knew it would be something that had been missing.
As I ambled out of the Portsmouth Square Parking Garage, I re-oriented myself up the hill.
If you ever go there, you’ll be walking the same streets I took that day. The narrow alleys are still there. Always will be.
Walk one block up the hill. You’ll be standing at a very important street corner, under a pagoda shaped stoplight. Voila. You’ve placed yourself smack dab on Grant, the “Main Street” of San Francisco Chinatown.
Glance over your left shoulder and you’ll see your reflection against the window into one of my fondest childhood memories.
The Candy Store
You can’t miss it. The green, black and orange tiles that decorate the walls are still loud and brassy.
The shop sells souvenir junk there now. It didn’t matter. This will always be my candy store.
There’s a lot of bad press on candy for kids nowadays. Too much sugar fries the brain. Offer a kid candy, and you’d think I was offering him a cigarette.
Seriously. Every kid lives for candy, don’t they? Me, I loved that stuff. I loved crunching on it, chewing it, and lodging it in the side of my mouth until half my tongue turned grape-purple.
Whenever I got my chance to buy candy, it was always a toss up between a lollipop or a roll of Life Savers. The Life Savers usually won out.
I figured Life Savers last the longest, because there are so many flavors and they take a long time to melt.
As I reminisced, a memory I’d almost forgotten surfaced.
One of my fondest memories of candy — that I didn’t dare admit — wasn’t from the candy store.
It was candy given to me by Yeh-Yeh. My father’s dad.
Just For Me
I can’t remember what his voice sounds like. Can’t recall the words he spoke.
I remember his smile.
He did with his eyes, in a way that always ended in a laugh. Like he had something really awesome hidden in the hand behind his back.
I didn’t get to see him that often. He was sick, I think. Always in his room.
Sometimes, he’d call out to me.
“Baaawwwnnneee!” His bedroom door would creak open and I’d know to go in.
He’d hug me like I’d imagine a bear would pull in a jar of honey, pressing me into his soft, flannel buttoned shirt. He’d plant a wet kiss on my cheek and I’d feel his scruffy whiskers. His hair was never combed, but it just made him look funny all the time. The good kind of funny.
After the hug and kiss, he’d pull out a lollipop, just for me.
He’d tug the plastic wrapper off real easy. I’d pop it in my mouth, just the same.
He’d laugh and so would I. I’d leave his room just as quickly.
I never did see him after my parents split up.
I was surprised at how crisp and full that memory came alive as I stood there — a grown up Bonnie, all five feet of me. It didn’t matter that the moments were fleeting or few.
I felt a streak of joy and warmth.
I recognized this feeling. I didn’t understand it as a girl not-yet-three, but I know the word for it now.
As I stood there, staring at the plastic toys stacked up against the store window, I realized something.
History can be rewritten. God can fill in the blanks.
… I didn’t expect the past to look different.
… I didn’t know how to rebuild.
I turned to wait at the stoplight again. The walk sign flashed on. I stepped out to cross the street and make my way towards Jackson Street. The morning sunlight peeked through the silhouette of the buildings. The city was coming alive. So was I…
To Be Continued…
What happens next on my journey?
Tune in next time, as I continue the story — “Going Off Script”.
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Faith. It takes us off script.
Going Off Script are a collection of scenes from my story, interspersed along with my regular brews. I'm telling it fresh, for the first time, as I take the journey to remember. Be sure to stay tuned in for my next Going Off Script post, as I continue my story. SUBSCRIBE NOW to get the next post in these series and more from FaithBarista hot and fresh directly in your mailbox via email (click here) or RSS (click here) news reader.