Written by Xuewen Lu (Scarlett)
It wasn’t really cold in New Hampshire, at least not during the days I stayed in Dover. The day my host mother Kathy came to pick me up was a rare warm sunny day. She took us to a fancy Mexican restaurant with perhaps the best pepperoni pizza I’ve ever had. The town hall was nearby, hidden in the white light. This quiet town seemed to have been lost and still stood out from the shining. In front of the Greek church, the snow-covered pine-trees were only pitch-black, and the yellow leaves that had not yet fallen were the first lamps of the night.
The public library was connected to a huge hotel, spread out on the silent riverbank. At the end of downtown was a huge video store with endless music charts and guitar nails. Portsmouth also had an old CD shop, crammed with CDS from decades ago that even Rod Stewart’s ’80s tour could be found, perhaps the biggest surprise for me of this month.
I was able to volunteer at Idlehust Elementary School for a few days where I shared a presentation about the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival to second-grade children. I lead them to experience the festive atmosphere and time-honored culture of another completely different country. As they concentrated on the images, the videos, the characters and my explanations, I sensed a gratuitous but heartfelt move across borders, language and cognitive boundaries.
The first time visiting Boston for me was so impressive for how cold it could be there. I could not get a foot in front of the Harvard museum of art, whose collections didn’t have the reputation they should have had. Trinity church was even way more than just splendid, the massive organ continued to play the Gospel, sonorously pure, Then a late-night snowstorm arrived, creating the illusion that the world was shaking in such pale white. The small diner near CVS served spicy, Italian-style lobster risotto with mint tea ice that the ice inside didn’t melt until just before we left.
Visiting New York, unfortunately too, it was rainy. I sensed a kind of fascinating chaos, puzzling and vigorous, and all of these would never end with the night. The metropolitan museum as the grandest was even more beautiful than St. Patrick’s church. Medieval figures were as cold as those weapons; My dearest Mr. Van Gogh, his dizzy starry sky and Frida’s self-portrait staring towards the crowd, were both as strange and uncomfortable as their disappointment with the world before they were gone.
The relics of Greece and Rome were the most fragmentary and the most barbaric as well; The morning breeze on the Brooklyn Bridge were more like howling in the wild; Dumbo’s cracked red-brick men came and went, and the Manhattan Bridge remained the same, except for the sorrow contained in “Once Upon a Time in America,” only falling into a new and unfamiliar era.
My host mother Kathy took us to so many places. She even took us a ride to White Mountain National Forest. Looking back now, I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time talking with her, while in the car, at her kitchen, at the supermarket at outlets when shopping with her. Mostly about the United States and China, about our previous trips, about her car radio, about tacos and nachos… She was of a fairly young mind, open and talkative, and I was often troubled by intimacy.
However, thanks to the power of conversation which allowed me to penetrate into other people’s worlds. Most of the time, I didn’t even think of her as a person with such an age gap. We just talked, exchanging each other’s views. Sometimes after a long chat reaction, I felt that it was such a pleasure and luck to experience how two such different people could ever be so connected to share, especially when they were born in two completely different countries.
My very last day, I was greeted by the last heavy snow. I really didn’t know whether there would be one day for me to come back again. In this case, “let me take a look at you again, from south to north, from east to west.”