By Ann Guy

December 27, 2021


On nights I was restless as a child, my grandmother, Ama, would put her gentle hand under my shirt and rub my back. That time when my family lived in the small house and there weren’t enough bedrooms or beds for everyone, she and I shared a twin bed. She rested her slender, bent body on the side that opened to the room, and I lay snug between her and the wall. Her hand slid up and down, smoothing, smoothing away the day. Sometimes, in a low voice she spoke to me in Chinese. There was a story of how Papa fell off a swing as a young boy and his head bled. He never cried, Ama said. He ran all the way home. Her hand brushed against my back, and it sounded like a grass broom against a worn, wooden floor.

Now, when my children can’t sleep, they roll onto their stomachs and I place my hand on their small backs. My hands are always cold and their skin is warm. I slide my palm up to their bird wing shoulder blades, down the sides of their bumpy ribs, and over the dip of their spines. Their breathing slows, their legs stop shifting, and the temperature of our skin equilibrates. I hear Ama’s hand and I see Papa running through the gray streets of Cebu, his hand to his forehead, and I feel the blood flowing between Ama, Papa, my children, and me. It whispers.


Ann Guy is a writer and recovering engineer who grew up among the cornfields of Western Michigan and now lives in Oakland, CA. She received her MFA from San Francisco State University, and her writing has appeared Entropy, Literary Mama, Ekphrastic Review, and Motherwell. She is working on a memoir about immigration, identity, and hope.


Picture by Bruce Tang courtesy of Unsplash  

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