I still have family in China, and tonight I had dinner in Shanghai with a somewhat distant aunt (my grandmother’s brother’s daughter) and my cousin, Trina (who is her daughter). I don’t see them often enough, but we had a wonderful time, and my aunt is a fascinating woman who survived the Cultural Revolution and met her husband, an expert in Russian translation, when they were both sent out to the country to work the fields. Her family lives in Henan Province now, though my cousin works in Shanghai. My grandfather’s sister still resides in Wuxi with her son and his family, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to see her during this trip. It’s sort of an odd, extraordinary thing when you realize that you’ve got family—actual blood relations—in faraway places that really aren’t all that faraway. It makes the world both smaller and larger.
I sometimes feel that way about writing books. All those stories and characters—they come from inside you, part of you, and even if you don’t know them or anything about how they got there or where they lived before you pulled them out of your mind, they’re still in your blood, like family. Still in you. You—writer, painter, reader, truck driver, waitress, doctor, baker, everyone—living with an entire unique universe that exists solely behind your eyes. And you can try to share some of that universe, but it’ll be too large, too complicated, to do more than reveal glimpses, fragments.
Anyway, enough rambling. I’m heading off to bed. I’ve been having strange dreams lately, so we’ll see what my mind concocts tonight.