I loved it when he picked a big red camellia for me from the garden, and when he played Taiwanese or Japanese folk songs from the old record player. I loved it when he took me out for a bicycle ride, and when he hand-made winding toys for me from mango seeds. I loved it when he bought me fresh resin buns to stop me crying after a doctor’s visit, and I loved to sit on his lap to listen to his conversation with his friends. When I was a little girl, I loved to ask for a horseback ride or to lie down next to him, to smell his smell, and to touch his waxed black hair.
But what I loved most was sitting by his side and watching with heartfelt admiration as he was writing Chinese calligraphy with a brush. On many a late afternoon, as he sat on the tatami and practiced calligraphy on a low desk, I would grind an ink stick on a grinding stone to prepare ink for him. Each time he filled one sheet of rice paper, I would move the sheet and place a new one in front of him right away. Together we made a good team, and being so close to him, even the peculiar smell of the ink made me happy.
Years later, on a balmy evening on the deck of a restaurant in Kyoto, I was having a drink and gazing at the full moon and the stars. The beautiful calligraphy on the label of the sake bottle caught my eye, and suddenly I smelled the longing. And that first stab of longing came with the scent of my father’s writing.
For the first eight years of my life, we shared many wonderful moments. I loved him dearly, and nothing brings back these moments like my scented memories of our happiness.