This Chinese New Year,
The house is spotless; the windows and ceiling fan cleaned of a year worth’s of dust. Old things have been thrown out, clothes that no longer fit – given away. Worn out mops and brooms, replaced. Out with the old, in with the new.
Lanterns and paper cutouts of this year’s zodiac animal are hung, stuck, secured in place.
A million pineapple tarts and other treats have been bought, their siren call causing diets and waistlines to be forgotten. We have stocked up on cartons upon cartons of soft drinks and beer. We have enough food and drink to feed a small village.
New money has been changed. The scent of crisp new bank notes, bound by white strips of paper. Blues, greens and reds placed into their individual packets, checked twice, thrice for the right amount, sealed with a lick.
Dust off the mahjong table. Buy packets of groundnuts. Buy the ones with the thumbs up logo. Bring out the decks of cards, poker chips. Wear red underwear for luck.
New clothes for everyone. Wear as many red clothing and accessories as possible without committing any serious fashion crimes. Get a new haircut, go for facial. Attempt to diet and fail pathetically. Buy clothes that are one size bigger.
Make dinner reservations in an overcrowded Chinese restaurant. Choose the menu with twenty overpriced dishes. Toss yee sang. Call out wishes and hopes. Smile at relatives, try not to forget their names. Come prepared with the appropriate responses to “Do you have a boyfriend yet”, “Why are you not a doctor”, and “Why is your boyfriend not a doctor”. Smile.
This Chinese New Year would be like every other Chinese New Year.
The only difference is that,
I can no longer stand at the front of your wooden door, banging loudly, shouting your name – announcing to the entire street that your grandaugther is here.
There won’t be a reunion dinner around that dinner table I grow up eating on. There won’t be my favorite salted chicken or soup with pork balls. I would never again see you beam in delight when we go for second, third, too many helpings of rice. Or watch you gnawing on a chicken neck with your dentures.
I would never get to offer to do the dishes, only to have you protest, insist that I sit and eat more. I would never get pulled aside, have you whisper quietly that you’ve made extra chicken for me to bring home. For lunch the next day.
The television would still be there, but we wouldn’t be sitting together watching those pathetic three channels. Mum won’t have kuaci that you always buy for her. We wouldn’t get to pick a number for you to buy.
I won’t get to sit on your bed, watch the ceiling fan in its endless cycle, listening to stories I’ve heard too many times. I won’t ever get to listen to you rant and complain about a neighbor or a pain.
I won’t get to wish you Gong Xi Fa Chai. I won’t get a red packet from you. I won’t get to mock complain that its way too little. Because it never was. It was always good enough.
You won’t try to get us to stay a little longer, to steal another moment because its getting late and we have to go home. I won’t make promises such as “We’ll be back very soon” “I’ll call you tomorrow, I promise”.
I won’t see the slight disappointment in your face as we walk down the stairs, and get into the car. Neither will I see your figure waving from the window, getting smaller and smaller as we pull away.
This Chinese New Year will be the same as all the other years, but I won’t have you.
And I would give anything. Just to have you, like I did last Chinese New Year.
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Mama.
I miss you.