Hands Constructed 手工

by Amy Grace Lam

When my grandfather died, my family found rolls of his writings hidden away in his bedroom. Everyone was shocked because my grandfather had been a day laborer in construction work. Uneducated, with hands schooled for labor, no one knew about his secret life as a writer. I don’t believe my family saved any of his scrolls. They thought they were just lonely words of a sad old man. So they tossed them into a fire so his sad life could be burned.

In the late 1970s, my father’s typewriter was kept safely hidden in the oven of our dank basement apartment in the Bronx. My father had left Hong Kong as a young adult with only a sixth grade education. Like his father, my father’s hands labored when he first came to the States. Dishwashing, cooking, picking fruit. Until one day, they were used for mixing chemical formulas and typing scientific reports. My father typed out his dissertation on that typewriter and earned a Ph.D. in chemistry. This machine was the most expensive thing my father owned after his car.

Today, inside my piano bench are a handful of musical scores to some of my favorite pieces I played as a young musician. Songs that date back to my childhood-Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All, J.S. Bach’s Air on a G String, Tchaikovsky’s Seasons and the lyrics to songs from Les Miserables. Like a well-kept music box you take out and crank whenever you want a reminder of time past, I still play these pieces from time to time to remember myself at age 9, 11, 14 when my hands were used to create a music and beauty that I hadn’t yet even realized. That these hands, passed down to me, of a builder-writer and worker-scientist, were becoming a poet-pianist.

 

Join us Sept 8-11, 2016 CounterPulse SF 80 Turk for Dohee Lee’s ARA Ritual I: Waterways.

http://www.counterpulse.org/event/dohee-lee-waterways/

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