The Last Matriarchs

Krystal M. Chuon
2 min readJan 21, 2022


Photo by Danie Franco on Unsplash

in the corner of every house party back then was always a group of chattering yeays

never really knowing what they were talking about, i was nonetheless fascinated by them

and even more fascinated by the little box that was always centered between them — maybe wooden, maybe silver

i would watch as they moved slowly among the items inside, each of them serving a purpose

the betel leaves, the lime stone paste, the betel nut…

their shaky hands moved in routine motion, they have done this many times before

i remember the reddish pink lime stone paste, often encased inside a small, round plastic container

i remember the way the yeays would evenly spread it onto each betel leaf like peanut butter on bread

i remember how they’d place pieces of betel nut — dried and round reddish brown — onto each leaf

and watching as their bony fingers meticulously rolled it all together, like how my dad would roll his tobacco

then, they’d mush the entire thing into the corners of their mouths, chewing and chewing, laughing and laughing

their opened mouths revealing betal nut stained teeth

while the youngins gambled and drank their liquor

while the aunties sat in their corner immersed in gossip

these were the yeays basking in their own little joys, chewing and chewing away