A Chinese Love Story


“Zhi Mei,” they call out, whenever they are lost.  “Zhi Mei.”   It is the call of friends and lovers, sharing excitement or trying to find each other in a crowd, “Zhi Mei.”  It is the call of my parents.

“Beautiful Nectar” is the literal translation from Chinese, but the poetic meanings are deeper.   “Zhi Mei” is the nourishing life water they share between them, the awesome sauce they give each other.

“They are wonderful folks,” people always say after meeting my parents. “They are truly special.  Cherish them.”

The joy, the selflessness, and the devotion with which they share their time and energy, enthusiastically with others, for the greater good of the collective group is astounding.  My father has just returned from his newest second career in China, teaching engineering, to help my mother support my sister-in-law through cancer. They started a non-profit Chinese school to help thousands of people in the South Bay of Los Angeles, letting others who needed to take the credit do so. I watched in awe as my parents showed their meekness and humility, letting themselves be of service.

For so many years, I was in so much pain, that I often forgot how truly special they are.  Yet, their ability to love me, their transgender daughter, in an unconditional manner, is amazing.  None of their behaviors wow me anymore; I just take it as commonplace with my parents.

I’m nonchalant through such wonder around me because I see an even deeper source of compromise, support, honesty, and love, bundled elegantly and shown daily towards one another: the source of my parents’ energy and their love towards one another is shiny.

After 40+ years of marriage, they still take walks together around the neighborhood.  I’ve even caught them holding hands when they think no one is looking.  It’s SO ADORABLE.

They dance without trying, effortlessly moving together without being in the same room.  Their lives are intensely independent, yet are one in the same movement.  I witness convergence interlaced with healthy independence like no other relationship.  Naturally, it is easy to find their relationship so centered, balanced, and loving.  It is authentic, kind, thoughtful, compassionate, and a thing of beauty.

Recently, my dad was getting ready to brush his teeth after coming out of the shower with only a towel wrapped around his lower body.  My mom got a rubber band and began walking towards him.  I happened to walk by their master bedroom and she quickly held her finger up to her lips and whispered “Shhhhh” to me, and I nodded and giggled.  She snapped my dad right in the butt and they began a playful and humorous exchange.

I didn’t stay around after that.  I walked out, smiling, letting them enjoy another moment together.

We often drink coconuts, and it’s common for all three of us to share the beautiful nectar when I visit their house.  The other night, I opened one and drank my portion, and then proceeded to hand the rest to my parents.  My mom was incredibly tired, and despite being on her feet all day and cooking several dishes for dinner, she took just a few sips and went over to my dad and gave him their share of the Zhi Mei.

The nurture, love, and fondness was breathtaking in that gesture.  I could see the spark, the gift, the awesome sauce, still going strong after 40 years of marriage.  They genuinely love each other so deeply and I am blessed to be a part of that love.

This love, this energy, has propelled them through so much, giving them the Zhi Mei, the mutual support and foundational energy which then cascaded down to me and my brother.  Their Zhi Mei has supported us into blossoming as adults who are extremely grateful to have such awesome sauce parents.

I often doubt I will find someone spiritually aware and mature enough to love all of me for me.  But, if there’s any consolation, I can honestly say it is very satisfying witnessing such a loving relationship that I know it not only exists, but that if I don’t find myself in a similar relationship in the future, I at least have had the privilege to see it for 30 years and now appreciate it on a whole new level of depth.

Sharing and being a part of their beautiful love has been a gift … my beautiful nectar, my awesome sauce.

Natalie Yeh

Liminal Spaces with Natalie Yeh -- aerospace engineer with a penchant for the spiritual, artistic, and cerebral -- is an attempt where she tries to accept her own messy humanity in exploring the gifts in her everyday stories and milestones with compassion, gratitude, and mindfulness. Gifts she believes we can all share and learn from when we choose to see our continuous threads of connection in our common humanity rather than uphold paper walls of illusions of separation that some treat as real. When she has free time, she loves to cook, shoot landscape photography, practice martial arts, write and dance. Her Chinese American background, bilingual upbringing, and transgender history all lend to her experiences in exploring the liminal spaces where her history, her present and her future are at odds and of a piece, creating herself and her writing as unique, cross cultural art.

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