Dumpling Sister's Thoughts
1.9.2011 Year (Chinese Version)
Last weekend I went with some friends to a historic city in Texas. It was a little bit chilly and we were walking on the busy streets of downtown on the New Year’s Eve. Everywhere we went there were people and we enjoyed that liveliness as the holiday spirit occupied the air we breathed and the people we saw. The mood was contagious that even the strangers on the balcony greeted us with by shouting “Happy New Year’s” to us! We also shouted back and continued our easy walk. Finally, the not-so-fancy-fireworks were lit and flew across the sky. That moment, as the clock turned the hand and welcomed the arrival of the New Year, and the crowd all stopped their motion and listened quietly to the cracking sound of firework which denoted that special moment.
Several hours ago we were at a Moroccan restaurant and had our first Moroccan meal. The restless waitress accidentally dropped the sugar glass jar and spilt coffee on to my friend’s jeans. I hurried and explained to her the Chinese concept of “pieces and good year”. I said to her that she will have a good year this year, because the word for pieces is the word for year in Chinese, [note: 5 years old is called “wu sui4” in Chinese and that word ‘sui4’ is same pronunciation as the word “broken”.] so we say one would have a good year when one accidentally breaks something during the New Year’s Eve. She was nervous and replied with a simple “I wish”, so I said to her a few more times until she was somewhat relived. I thought I did well at translating pieces to peace under such abrupt incident.
It seems so, that the liveliness of the mood brings people closer, because everyone expects the same, which is to have a good year for the upcoming year.
In retro respect, can you remember what crossed your mind the hour before the clock turned? Did you flash back any moment of your life, or maybe it was someone you remembered, or something that was said to you? Which scene welled up in your mind in the most unexpected way? I remembered I too was at the same place some years ago, with some friends, and walked down the same streets as everyone lifted their heads and enjoyed the fireworks in the celebration of the then new year’s arrival. But that feeling was long forgotten for me. Come to think of it, millennium was only a few years ago, but it seemed ages now yet it was a passing of a century and a millennium. How many can actually remember what they were doing then without much effort? It is like the meteorite crossing through the sky at night, it did cross, but the scene and the feeling are very surreal since there was no trace to be found in the sky or in the human eye sight.
I repeatedly thought about the past as if I were sunk deep into the ocean of reminiscence. If recollection is a tunnel, I must have already gotten lost at some sign-less year stop.
Later, my friends and I walked back to the car with joy; everyone was sleepy and was under a slight influence of alcohol. The morning breeze welcomed us with some empty feel in the air. The street lights were still on, yet the streets were clear mostly. I turned back to look and noticed that the year has passed just like that. Its easiness caught me by surprise and I felt that I needed some getting-used-to. On the way home, I was quiet, not because of tiredness, but because of some nervousness, and mostly because I hadn’t gotten out from the tunnel of time. Year after year, it seems every year there are those who leave us. True, it has been almost three years since Grandpa left us. The concept of the aforementioned “year” was quite ambiguous to me, as if it existed in another dimension, one that I couldn’t touch and had to be counted to be accounted for.
Day after day passed for the following week, yet the week was already a year away from the previous week. People greeted less with “Happy New Years”, but I still tried to quote that in my emails with some personal persistence.
From this year to last year, from last year to the previous year, and from previous year to the past years, repeatedly year after year, can you tell which year it is this year, dear friend?
No sound and no whisper, only some people those are left are sighing. The past is passed and becomes memory, but recollecting it is not so easy.
Frankly speaking, I don’t know when did I start to lose touch of year. I always joke that I am somewhat forgetful. I think if by saying that can reduce the traumatic impact from the past years, it may not be a bad thing. Because there must be times in our lives, that someone would quote the wise phrases encouraging us to move forward with our lives and not to get caught with the past. It is true because if one doesn’t do that, how can one let go of the sorrow that has happened in that year or from the previous years?
Come to think of it, I am surprised that I feel disconnected from the devastating feeling which I was in when Grandpa passed away. The swollen eyes, the stuffed nose that just wouldn’t stop running when it was cleared, and the incessant crying that even I was surprised to hear myself marked the sorrowful weeks I went through in the summer of 2008. I remembered on his final day when we walked and followed behind Grandpa on what was to be his last trip home; it was a bright summer day. I also remembered the crashing of several ancient styled herbal clay pots because of the pass-down tradition which hoped he would be rid of pain and illness for his after-life or re-incarnation. Also the most noticeable final minutes when we whispered to him to run in haste and do not get burnt during the cremation process. I have tried to seal up all kinds of images, both mental and physical images, which may be related to him. Over the past years I have refrain myself from remembering him. I do not have the guts to look at his pictures or longer than I should have, and every time when I stop to think when I am in his room, I feel the void and the emptiness in that room, like a puzzle piece is missing and the picture is incomplete, and there is no backup to that piece. His clothes are still in the room, but his bed is taken apart and the TV has changed location. I don’t wish to remember how he used to be at home and he would simply be a phone call away in distance.
He would greet in Japanese when he picked up a call, i.e. mushi mushi, and his typical three inquiries that followed: have you been sleeping well, have you been eating well, and have you been keeping in touch with the rest of the family? He often would comment that, “I don’t understand you young people, when it turns dark, you should rest and sleep, have a routine, and you know this is good for the body.” I often just listened and ignored him and I never thought I would never hear those three familiar inquiries again. No one is there now to ask me how I have been like he did. Typically I would go one ear in, one ear out with his questions since he normally would initiate the talk, then after that he could listen to what I wanted to tell him. Everything else would be fine to him. Right, as long as we are eating well, sleeping well, and are in communication with each other, that made his day. Little did we know that during Grandpa’s early days in Taiwan, when it was a time of war, instability, dugout holes, and refugees, if one had enough to eat, a place to sleep, and be with one’s family that would be the greatest god-giving blessing, one that deserved lucky laughs. After the funeral, one of my relatives suggested that we should assume that he took a trip out of the country, a trip that doesn’t have a return flight, and we should be happy and relieved for him and stop being sorrowful. But what I wanted to respond with obstinacy was that, could I possibly ask that plane which he was on to land? I needed to find someone. The phone line that was near his room, I wanted to call and make it ring so that it created an illusion for me into thinking he could possibly be picking up the receiver on the other end. I wanted to tell him what has had happened to me in these past few years, the things that made me happy, sad, bored, and anything in between that has happened in my life; essentially I wanted to dump all onto him. But for the most part, I wanted to tell him that he has left us without receiving anyone’s permission, and he should know that I am to this day, still mad at him, having resentments towards him, and I don’t want to forgive him. I do so because I wanted him to know that he should never repeat that again, never to take his leave without permission again. But ultimately I just wanted to ask him for his forgiveness in me for the fact that I wasn’t able to be sympathetic to the unimaginable pain which he was in. God knows, I was never prepared for such day and I could never ask myself beforehand to imagine the arrival of such day either. The day when we sent him off, I could only thank him and express our inability to let him go on the behalf of the entire family. Would he know that for the regrets that I have, I would continue to remind myself year after year and I don’t think I could never let them go.
Eyes closed, deep breath taken, the used tissue paper was thrown all over on the floor, but all I care about was that there was clean tissue nearby and I can reach when I need to.
So, it seems that after all these years, I am still resisting changes and not able to move on, but I finally can meet face to face with the fragments of my memory, and put that into writing and write about the past few years.