When I asked Crystal’s grandfather if he could write some Chinese calligraphy for King School’s International Night, I naively thought it was just a matter of his putting brush to paper and writing some pretty Chinese characters on red paper.
My job was to get a long roll of red paper from the art teacher and send it home on the school bus with little kindergartener Crystal. That I knew how to do. I wrapped it up tight in a clear plastic trash bag to safely school bus- and kindergartner-proof it. The paper was taller than she was.
I did not even think about what Crystal’s grandfather should write, other than a Chinese New Year’s poetry couplet or dui lian, from the Chinese New Year’s tradition of paired door hangings to protect the household and express wishes for the new year — usually something about family and fortune and long life. I explained to Crystal’s grandfather the sort of place King School was and all our hopes and dreams for King School’s International Night, “Bringing us together. Celebrating our diversity.”
Even then, I did not really understand, and I sort of imagined him looking something up from a giant book of poems, with that thin almost translucent Chinese paper.
The next thing I knew, he had composed two nine-word verses for us in a pocket-sized spiral notebook, the children described as a garden of multihued flowers.
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