There Are Some Ghosts I’m Still Waiting For

There Are Some Ghosts I'm Still Waiting For
"There are some ghosts I'm still waiting for" - the first line of a poem I started writing a few months ago, in October of 2017. October's a month of monsters and ghosts, after all. I found this one to be particularly haunted. Someone once told me that if you're Asian-American or mixed or whatever, you have a grandmother poem in you that you need to write. This is mine.
Here's grandmother #1, my mother's mother. I'd say she's about 30 years old in this picture. I would visit her every summer, on the island where she'd made her home. We'd always take a picture on the same beach, every summer. You can tell how old I am in each photo by how many inches are between us on the beach. The more inches, the older I am. Ghosts don't accept regrets or excuses. Do they?
This is grandmother #2, my father's mother. Born in 1923, died in 1995. Just 2 years before I was born! She was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, an island I couldn't even point out to you on a map til last year. I reconstruct her image from photos, from anecdotes. I hoard pieces of her life like a magpie hoards shiny things. This photo is from National Geographic Magazine. Supposedly my grandfather saw it and said "I'm going to marry that woman." There are some ghosts I've been waiting for my whole life.
I connect my grandmothers through the islands they spent their lives on. Vashon Island, WA: area 36.99 miles squared, population 10,624 (2010), est. 1792 (though evidence of human activity dates back 10,000-12,000 years) Trinidad (& Tobago): area: 1,841 miles squared, population 1,267,145 (2010), est 1498, colonized by the Spanish in 1530. One island I practically grew up on; the other I visited for the first time last December.
I visited last year for the first time, with my family. It was nice, but a little... weird. I think I expected to feel some sense of connection that just wasn't there. Which is natural, I guess. My connection to the island is tenuous at best, and the countless relatives I met there were all distant relations who I'll probably never see again. But still, that's not the narrative you get growing up mixed. You're supposed to feel *something* for the place you're from. The last night before we flew back home, my half brother and I went out with our cousins. At some point, probably about 3 drinks in, one cousin said to me, "Wow, you even drink like a Khan!"
I wasn't sure how to react. Was he talking to my ghost? I have some questions for you, my two ghosts.
There are some ghosts I'm still waiting for. Come in! Sit down! Make yourself at home! I'll be waiting here for you.
Written and illustrated by Claire Haug, 2018. In memory of Betty Zenobia Khan (1923-1995) and Marilyn Mae Kastien (1933-2017). All (or at least most) drawings were referenced from photos provided by Bob Siedle-Khan, Lynn Haug, and National Geographic Magazine. Special thanks to Floyd Cheng, for inspiring this project, and to my Mom, for absolutely everything.

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Claire Oliver Haug

Claire has previously written for the New York Times' newsletter "The Edit." You can follow them on Twitter and find more of their work here.

Claire has written 1 article for us.


    • The feeling of expecting that instantaneous connection and not getting it, it’s so real!!! I think that’s one of the most painful things.

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