Phil Lai

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the felling

backyard memories

The crabapple tree appears in one of my earliest memories. It is morning, everything still and steeped in daffodil light. I am in my mother’s arms, my cheek resting on the softness between her neck and collarbone, and brightness turns the insides of my eyelids pink. A warm current of air breaks over the grass…

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moments like these

the shifting of seasons

For me, the shifting of seasons is always nostalgic. Four times each year, natural transformations—in the crispness of the air, the first appearance of buds on branches, the falling leaves, the way the sunlight hangs in the air—arrive and pass. I recognize that these shifts don’t happen everywhere. But in most places where the seasons…

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dear girls and boys

missed connections at the rock

I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Rock lately, and I’m not sure why. I’ve always considered myself a SciLi person, but something about the more squat and cozy of the two brutalist buildings has been drawing me in. The worn wood of the carrels, its shelves stacked with jewel-toned tomes (which I’m…

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the princess diaries

suiting up and growing older

On my fifth birthday, I announced to my parents that I was a princess. I told them I was expecting my real parents, the king and queen of some far-off land who wore clothes straight out of the 15th century, to reclaim me and bring me back to their castle. I predicted that, within the…

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let there be light

a brief and personal history of the lightbulb

1. First memory of a lightbulb: a yellow glow slid underneath my bedroom door. A letter from the world of wakefulness: the hallway where my parents’ feet creak back and forth, cutting shadows across the one lit stripe on my bedroom’s hardwood floor. A second memory: A light swoops in and out the window, sweeps…