Tiger Eye Balm

Reach on top of the fridge for grandma, I encouraged myself. I was born in the United States, but until I was four, I lived with my mother’s parents in their rural Fujian hometown. I wasn’t a slave who fetched things for my grandma; rather, I insisted on helping her with whatever I could so she could get her much-needed rest. Her day was never complete without two things: a handheld fan and a daily affair with Tiger Eye Balm. It cleared her sinuses, relieved her headaches and soothed her muscles. Sometimes she would use it on our tummies to promote digestion or bowel regularity. The container of this ointment was no bigger than .5 ounces, but it cost a fairly large amount for a tiny thing. It was unlike my Chinese family to spend extravagantly. Considering that my great grandmother also used this ointment with far less income, it must have special healing power. No longer a sheltered four-year-old, I’ve come to know its great power: comfort. Not just physical comfort, but more important, emotional comfort. My grandma and great-grandma didn’t knit sweaters or bake sweets as stress relievers; they had the eye of the tiger! My mother’s side is notorious for their inundating worries, but this was the magical warm milk and fuzzy blanket for them. There is no pleasure in life without comfort. When we go back to visit China, we still bring one back to New York—just one though, because it remains a luxury. The little red quarter of a container values more than 25 cents.

Year: 1999

– Wendy You

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