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Mr. Zhao

We were instant friends. Age was no matter to Mrs. Luo and Mr. Zhao, in fact, in spirit

and whimsy we were all still children. I used to visit them every week. Our conversations

touched on so many subjects, from China's history and intrigue, to Western culture and the

Bible. He was a romanticist ever able to add drama and passion to any subject. Words

were his art. For him they were like a brush in a painter's hand. He could move and

arrange them to express his thoughts with the precision of a surgeon. He reminded me to

make time for my passion in life.

I'll never forget when I first discovered he was a famous script writer in Shanghai. He

held his thumb and pinky together and said, "I am only this big", as Mrs. Luo peaked over

his shoulder rolling her eyes, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. Their expressions

of affection came with many little giggles, eye rolls and "啊呀!他老是这样!” (aya! He/she

is always like that!). Reminiscent of my own parents, I always felt right at home, a player

in their little game.

Each day I spent with them my vocabulary grew and grew, although I'm not sure what

use being able to talk about left wingers and right wingers in the communist political

party will be for a young western woman. I'll think of Mr. Zhao if I ever get into that kind

of conversation, that's for sure. Teaching me those things was probably all part of a fun

game for him. Our knowledge of one another's cultures also expanded. Ever humble, they

allowed me, who truly is "only this big", to teach them. Sadly, my dear friend Mr. Zhao has

gone to sleep. I will always cherish the laughs we shared.

This painting depicts how I envision him when he lived in Shanghai, sitting by the bund,

soaking up inspiration for his next story. The words written across the buildings are from

a Farewell poem written by Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty. I have included it here

because Mr. Zhao always encouraged me to study literature as part of the language

learning process, so I think of him when I do. This is how it reads:


⼭中相送罢􀉼 􀀁

A farewell in the mountains ends,

日 暮 掩 柴 扉。

Nightfall covers the wooden door.


Next year's spring grass turns green,


Will my beloved friend return?

Excerpt from my book Behind The Brush available at:

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