When we first relocated to California, we moved into a small two-bedroom apartment and had only one car, which my parents used for work. So, we walked often to explore our new city–to school, the pier, and the local coffee shops. At one point, a classmate said, “You guys walk a lot” as they recalled driving past us in downtown. Little did they know, we didn’t have an extra car. But we lived close enough to everything, we didn’t mind so much. It was especially exciting to us since we’ve never lived in a city with sidewalks either. Sidewalks, right? Something as simple as having sidewalks was special to us. Now looking back, experiences like this– feeling safe enough to walk in your new city–is a luxury afforded by few.

On September 5, 2012, we got the keys to a small house. This was such a happy day for me. Having grown up on the countryside in the south, I was used to open property and a home with many levels. And here in this little town, we had finally found a small house with a yard and a garage.

We spent the next few years growing up inside this house on this busy Californian street. I remember the many late nights spent setting up the tent in the backyard to prepare for early morning jingle bells. This house welcomed us when we were going through some of the most difficult times, happy times, and memorable times–without ever judging. I recall my father always saying the words “Tsev miv los saab tsis miv” (the house may be small, but the heart isn’t).

Coincidentally on September 5, 2020, we said our goodbyes to this home–with the final farewells calling our spiritual selves to leave. You see, last year I had bought a house for my parents. My dogs now have a bigger yard to run in and we’ve even built garden boxes for our Hmong chicken herbs–a symbolic gesture of sedentism: a decisive decision to settle. But, it still took one whole year to say goodbye to this old place.

It may sound silly to grieve a space–a mere physical place. But, it’s in my nature; the nature of my people. Having had no country to bear the name home, moving is more than changing one’s place of residence. We leave behind memories that we’ve built, the many dinners we’ve shared, the laughter that echoed beyond the walls, and the tears that were wept during nightfall.

Saying goodbye to a place full of memories is never easy. You are confronted with processing that every empty hole in the wall once hung photos and frames, the carpet stains were from a time that you had company, and the empty rooms were once filled with your things.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my parents to leave their homes in Laos when they fled their war-torn country. However, I do understand now how resilient my Hmong people are. We can leave a place we’ve called home and, yet move forward and still preserve our culture, traditions, languages, and communal bonds.

A lovely home on a busy Californian street.

Bronfrenbrenner’s Ecological System’s Theory indirectly states that it takes a village to raise a child; this was my environment that helped raise me. Pictured above is the last photo I took as I walked out of this beloved space. I don’t know if I will ever get another chance to smell that exact smell when unlocking these doors or be greeted with the familiar warm breeze from the gas furnace that filled this house. But, this picture serves as a reminder that life is full of levels; you level up by staying grounded.

“It’s okay to have nice things. Don’t let nice things have you.”

I wish you courage on your journey to your own satori.

Until next time.



One thought on “Levels

  1. Awww this was sweet read. I felt the same way leaving my duplex on highland. It was a small crowded old place. But it holds so many memories, decisions, and emotions, literally everything. So bittersweet, but i am so happy where im at right now as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s