I had a dream last night that I didn’t know who my family was. In fact, everyone’s families were confused, overlapping, misdirected, misidentified. I introduced Pascal’s parents to my parents. His parents were French-speaking Canadians from Montreal. My parents were Chinese, yet French-speaking. In another version, both sets of parents belonged to him, and I had just met his mother who wanted to return to China because her business had been burned to the ground. She was sick of trying to make a life for herself here. She said I should come to the East sometime. I told her that I’d been to Taiwan many years ago. She said China was different.

Everyone’s homes had been set on fire. My childhood friend wanted to know if I was going back to my charred house and, if I was, could I get a chair for her that she liked? I didn’t think there was anything left. She wanted the Eames chair that belonged to my grandparents; I wanted to see if any of the books or papers were salvageable. I realized the loss of my books and writing would be the hardest thing to replace, that I could never remember everything that I’d owned.

A different childhood, in real life: a friend’s mother has just died. I’ve called to make a donation for the funeral. I realize that my dream is an indication of the confusion of families. There was a time when I felt myself to be a part of many other families, much more than my own.

postscript: I’ve just called my dad. There is something in all of this that we are able to share.

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