When we have a spirit-calling ceremony called hu plig or when we have an ua neeb—I’m still not sure what the English translation on this is—my father feeds his parents. He sits at the kitchen table with a bowl of rice, a bowl of boiled chicken, and an empty plate. As though my grandparents are here and not on The Other Side, he scoops a spoonful of rice, tears off a piece of chicken, and pours some broth onto the plate. He repeats this, uttering words underneath his breath. How does he know how to do this? What are the words he utters? He has not taught any of us this ritual, and I wonder: Who will feed him when he is gone?
Does he teach lessons the way my mother does? She doesn’t say, “This is how you cook.” She says, “Go to the kitchen.” When she later learns I don’t know how to cook, she yells at me. “What were you doing all this time in the kitchen?” she asks. “Eating,” I say. “Killing time.”
May Lee Yang, Minnesota