Food brings positive memories

Chinese New Year occurred on Friday. This holiday is devoted to the beginning of a new year that is dedicated to one animal in the Chinese Zodiac. We are now in the Year of the Horse. It is a fabulous time of year to clean houses, cook delicious food and spend time with family and friends. Two people I wish I could have celebrated with are my grandparents who recently passed away, due to cancer.

My grandparents are very important to me. Chinese people love to eat and two types of food bonded us together. While I was in Macao on China trips with my family, my grandfather and I ate pumpkin seeds together. I remember that they were green and somewhat salty. We would always eat them in my grandparents’ apartment, just me and my Gong-gong, not really talking all that much but hunching over the dining table and concentrating on cracking and eat seeds together. Those times were and still are very special to me. I got to know him better. My grandma and I did not start to bond over food until after 2009 when she moved to my house to live with us in the summer. She made jiaozi (potstickers) for me while she was here. Jiaozi is made up of some type of meat and vegetable wrapped up in a pastry-like wrapper. After they are wrapped up, they are cooked by boiling or pan frying. My grandma would always pan fry them.

Even though my grandparents are gone from the Earth, they still live on in my heart. My mom and I have carried on the tradition of making jiaozi. I remember when I was younger, I would always complain about how she would always rip the bottoms off of them while trying to serve them on plates. I would also complain about how my grandma’s jiaozi were so much better than my mom’s. Now, my mom’s jiaozi are amazing. Whenever my mom and I watch movies together, we eat sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin seeds. I always think of my grandpa. My mom likes to say that she’s raising me and my sister the same way my grandpa raised her. I also have another thing that reminds me of my grandpa. The object is a gold jewelry-type case that has flowers and butterflies on it. It is one of the last presents I received from my grandpa before he passed away.

My grandma also pushed me to be a better Chinese speaker. There was this one time when I tried to say something to her in Chinese, but she did not understand me. Then, I got frustrated and I was almost in tears. I stormed upstairs to my room. I practiced the phrase that I was trying to communicate to her until it was nearly perfect. I, then, went back downstairs to her bedroom and I said the phrase to her. She finally understood me and I could not have been happier.

That experience taught me to never give up when learning another language or to be disappointed when someone doesn’t understand me the first time. I use that lesson when my family hosts a student from the Central American Youth Ambassador (CAYA) program. The students may not understand my Spanish the first time, but if I keep trying, it is close to being guaranteed that they will understand me.

My grandparents have both inspired me to be the best student I can be. When they were university students, they attended the Harvard of China, Beijing University. My grandma’s high school friends told me – on one of my trips to China with my grandma – that my grandma was their Marie Curie.

My grandparents taught me so much in the short time I had with them. I miss my grandparents greatly. I wish that I could still eat jiaozi, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds with them.

Happy Year of the Horse to everyone. May your grandparents be healthy and happy in the new year, and may you have fond memories of your grandparents.

Editor’s note: GlenEllen Lehmberg, 16, is a junior at Marquette Senior High School. She is a long time member of 8-18 Media and is also involved in dance and youth theatre in her spare time. Her parents are Paul and Z.Z. Lehmberg of Marquette.