Without question, my mom was always there when I was ill. When a fever struck or my throat ached, she was there to nourish me with her homemade jook (porridge) and colorful Jell-O squares. Beyond the comfort of Mom and her comfort food, I also had Emily (known as Miloo to her mother and myself), who I’ve known since I was 7.
One of my earliest recollections of our friendship was in 2nd Grade when one day, Emily didn’t show up to Ms. Iamundo’s class. She was out sick, so I drew her a “Get Well” card and left it on her desk for when she eventually returned. Many years later in high school when I was sick, she crayoned a “Get Well” card for me – a card that still hangs on my bedroom wall in New York.
In the 11 years of our schooling together, Emily and I only shared two classes, but we stuck together from the start. We chalked it up to our shared background of having a “loud dad” and a “cute, very chatty mom.” In the years following Ms. Iamundo’s class, we would swing on the tire swing in her front yard, walk her dog Socks around the block, swim in the town pool, and consume copious amounts of my mom’s macaroni and cheese. When high school came to an end, we co-hosted a graduation party for our family and friends in her backyard.
High school graduation marked the last time we would live in the same city. Despite a flickering thought to attend the same college, we chose different schools: I moved to upstate New York, while she packed her bags for Ohio. Then I was bound for China, and she has since set up shop in Colorado, Chicago, and now Austin, Texas.
As long-standing friendships go, we’ve always been there for one another, in sickness and in health. Fortunately, our afflictions have remained mild – the worst of which was the inevitable removal of our wisdom teeth. After the minor dental surgery, I returned home with puffy cheeks full of gauze, and Emily was the first to call. “I just called to say, ‘Hi’,” she said. “I know you can’t speak. I just wanted to see how you are doing.”
A few years ago when she visited me in China, we encountered many talkative strangers as one would when paired with a red-headed friend. We had just returned to Beijing after our Yunnan trip was cut short due to my pangs of food poisoning. As our conversation wrapped up with one particular Beijing neighbor, he concluded, “Ah, so you’ve been friends since split pants!”
We laughed and laughed (or rather, giggled), which I’ve been told, is the best medicine; and true to its form, I cheered right up.
Without a close friend to share a laugh, being sick can be utterly miserable – which is why living abroad when you’re ill can be a challenge. Staying in good health also gets tougher when the bitterness of winter hits. That’s why this month, we encourage you to stay healthy! Purchase the purest ingredients possible in your nearby supermarket, consider the healing effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and keep your heart rate up with fitness for the whole clan. Also learn about how one father has created a supportive network for other families facing diabetes.
I’ve fallen sick more than once in Beijing. During those times, while old friends and family wait in the wings across the world on a telephone wire, I’ve had many good Beijing friends escort me to the hospital, cook me warm soup, and drop by to see how I was doing. But of course, we have a place in our hearts for all of our friends, especially the ones we’ve known since split pants. Though our lives have drawn us to different corners of the world, I always know Miloo is just one giggly phone call away.