The dough was coming together under his hands. He kneaded it, rolling it back and forth until it had the silken consistency he was looking for. Covering it with a towel and dusting excess flour from his hands he pulled the bowl of filling toward him. The monotony of filling dozens of dumplings always relaxed him. Giving the contents of the bowl another stir to make sure it was thoroughly combined, he checked to make sure the steam baskets were ready to go, too. Pulling a quail's egg-sized ball of dough from the main lump, he worked it in his fingers until it was flat and almost perfectly round. The chopsticks helped dig just the right amount of filling from the bowl and he set about pinching up the sides until a crescent-shaped dumpling sat in his palm.
The first dumpling was lined up in the corner of his bamboo cutting board, and by the time he finished, the entire board would be packed with them. He worked quickly, muscle memory aiding in his task as his mind wandered. Every time he made dumplings, he remembered the first time he had made them with his sister. He was five, she was seven. She swore that she remembered their mother's recipe and had convinced their adopted parents to let her make them without assistance. Adult assistance. She had reluctantly allowed Jax to lend a hand. Perhaps she had understood that it was important to him, too, to remember the traditions set forth by their parents in Hong Kong. Or perhaps she truly did want his help. It had never been clear to him and he felt the time to ask her had long since passed. He wasn't sure if she would even remember it.
The reason the memory had stuck with him so firmly was that halfway through making the dumplings, his sister had burst into tears. Her hands were sticky with flour and water and he remembered thinking that her tears were going to make the dough taste funny as they rolled off of her cheeks and into the bowl. "What's wrong?" he had asked her. She was his strong older sister, and since they had been adopted he hadn't seen her break down this way. He was afraid he had made it worse because as soon as the question was out of his mouth she cried harder, her shoulders shaking as her body was wracked with sobs.
Their parents, hearing her crying, had entered the kitchen and asked the same question Jax just had. He wanted to speak up and tell them that it would only make her cry harder, but it was too late. She crumpled to the floor and he watched in horror as the dough went flying and the bowl fell upside down on the linoleum. He had turned back to ask her why she had done such a careless thing when she managed to get the explanation for her tears out through her hiccuping sobs. "I can't remember how to make them. I'm forgetting."
Lauren had gathered the little girl into her arms and rocked her there on the kitchen floor, wiping her tears and telling her everything would be alright. Bradley had picked up the overturned bowl and urged Jax to help him scrape the half-formed dough from the floor. Jax kept playing her words over and over again in his head as he helped wipe up the floor. She was forgetting, and he realized that he was, too.
By the time the memory had replayed itself, his cutting board was half full of dumplings. Eventually, she had remembered the recipe and had written it down, eventually, she had been able to teach Jax how to make them himself. But he could never make them without remembering that he couldn't picture his birth parents in his mind or that he had no memories of the time before he was adopted. As grateful as he was to Lauren and Bradley for raising him, he couldn't help but feel that a part of him was missing.