I. My husband tries to throw away a pair of wool socks I say no. One has a hole eaten through its heel, but the other can be paired with another sock that loses its mate. I leave protective film on appliances until the corners peel up. I’ve never met a plastic bag I won’t save. I fill pockets with names. Bradford pear: the tree rioting with white stars in front of my childhood home; curlew: a kind of sandpiper; a painting that leans into the starkness of light against dark: chiaroscuro; a new story written over an old story: palimpsest. My name was the trip wire on every first day of school. Teachers went down the roll, paused, tried out unfamiliar shapes with their mouths. By high school I stopped waiting for them to sew together vowels out of order, jumped in Here is what to call me. II. These are things I can say in Mandarin: Have you eaten? I am full. The moon is round like a plate. The car has broken down. Stupid people can be called dumb melon. Dull egg. Rice bucket. I know the right words to greet my father’s sister, then my mother’s sister. I can ask someone’s age but only in the way a grown-up asks a kid. I can gossip. But I don’t have the words to argue about the government, make flattering speeches at banquets, or persuade someone who disagrees with me. When I was small, my parents beamed when visiting aunties called me guai well-behaved with harmonics of: obedient, gentle, respectful. By high school, no one ever tried to offer me a cigarette or invite me to a party when their parents were away. If my parents talked about Ronald Reagan, it was only at dinner, when we were alone What do you gain by sharing opinions in public? The way their families got out of wartime China was by saving cash out of sight, leaving at night. When you’re not watching, that lone man you see on TV in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square will be crushed. III. I show up at my first protest without a sign but I do have a cowbell, a baby, a stroller to change diapers in by the side of the street. The others: they’ve got megaphones, rhyming chants, liver-rumbling drums, a papier-mache uterus with angry eyebrows. Things I had to learn: Buy poster board in advance. If you want the kids to help with the signs, draw bubble letters they can fill in with a Sharpie. Get used to shouting. I appoint myself chief civics officer: Let’s talk about the preamble to the Constitution. The word we is sticky, the word justice a gravity well. Forget the time I wasted trying to turn more American by drinking a glass of milk straight from the fridge every day. Pay attention to the imperative to form a more perfect union – to try, and keep trying even as the rest of the world rolls its eyes. Believe that if our caterpillar guts dissolve into goo there are groups of cells that already have editing pens tiny legs muscles guts food for eyes antennae wings.