Summary of “Towards Chinatown”

Two days after I learn that my mother has cancer, after my sister tearfully tells me over the phone, “This might be mom’s last Christmas,” I go to San Francisco Chinatown.
At home, my mother sings Cantonese songs from her childhood to me.
In Chinatown, my mother got her hair cut by a woman called Pony.
In the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire, Chinatown merchants hired white architects to rebuild their buildings with pagodas, dragon motifs, and eaves curling skyward, a stage-set Chinatown to attract tourists and to protect the neighborhood against city leaders who had planned to seize its land.
I don’t know that in a Chinatown alley stands a modest building with my mother’s family name on it, home to our family association.
Am I imagining the yearning of my mother, left behind by her parents as a child as they headed towards America one by one? She was raised by a grandmother in a one-room apartment shared with an uncle who smoked indoors.
What do you pack when your mother has cancer and you don’t know how long you’ll stay? An acquaintance suggests sweats, but I only pack one pair.
I’m surprised – at how I mourn the loss of my mother tongue, but my mother does not.

The orginal article.