Posted June 9, 2013on:
that’s the age I always feel. Sometimes I say to myself: I’m the adult now, I pay bills, raise kids, take consequences, there is really no one to clean up my shits if I fail in life. It still feels very surreal to me. I am this.close to the 14 year old who was wearing that one light pink floral cotton dress, standing by the sink in our old kitchen on Reno Ave, cleaning baby squids yet again – how could they jam so many damn squids into a 5 lbs box?? The squids were still semi frozen. Sometimes I didn’t do it right, and the ink would squirt out. That’s how I got that dress stained. If I could go back in time, I would have saved that dress for May.
The apricot tree in the backyard would be ladened with fruits at the top around the start of summer, but all the ones on the lower branches had been picked and eaten while they were still half green. Evening was time to water the vegetable patch and do some weeding. The tomatoes, onions, kang-kung, lemongrass, mints… I watered them all. The grasshoppers would jump out when spray of water hit the leaves, the moths fluttered their wet wings. Some days when the temperature climbed to triple digits, I had to water the patch early in the morning as well.
The backyard was full of weeds that was green and rather pleasant looking in springtime, but by summer, it was just yellow and full of those little spiky balls. We hung our laundry to dry in the sun every day. I hung them out and took them back in at night. I folded them and put them away for everyone. I hate doing laundry, but that’s just me now. Back then, it was my chore, and I didn’t really hate things like that, because my mind was always elsewhere.
At night the moon would bathe the entire backyard in its silvery light. One night I put a bench in the middle of the yard and gazed at the moon. It didn’t feel very poetic; everyone continued to watch some movie that was shown on channel 13. Another night I rode an old rusty yellow bike with semi flat tires, around and around that yard. An old Meyers lemon tree bloomed profusely in the far corner. I still love the smell of lemon blossoms to this day. From the bedroom I shared with my two sisters, I could see the starry sky. Summer was always dry and hot.
And it was very boring. An, Tin, and I still watched Bugs Bunny for 30 minutes everyday. Tin and I spent a lot of time out on the street in late afternoon with the neighborhood’s kids. I learned to skate using a pair of barbie training roller skates belonging to Julie, the younger sister of my classmate Peter. We shoot hoops a lot in Peter’s backyard. I didn’t get better at basketball. We talked. Peter and I had nothing to say, but with Julie, who was 3 -4 years my junior, we talked. Then another summer day, and they moved away.
ah, well, this is nice: at the end of my 8th grade year, I had to attend middle school graduation ceremony. I approached Kevin’s mom, a neighbor 1 house over. She has 3 little girls, and I had always seen them in lovely neat french braids. I asked if Mrs.(what’s her name now?) could please braid my hair like that for me for graduation? She said sure honey bun, let me take a look. I think my coarse asian hair was nothing like her children’s blond soft strands. She worked on me for a good 40 minutes. Holly and Heather – the twins – kept circling around and around us, sighing, “so pretty! so pretty!” So the first thing I did after their mom was done, I ran home and looked at myself in the mirror. Yes, I did look pretty indeed. It was the first moment of self consciousness in the positive sense for me. Before that, it was obsession over some scar on my wrist or leg, wishing and wishing with all my heart that I could wake up one morning and not see those scars. My pubescent energy was well spent obsessing over random things like that. But you understand, don’t you? I’ve seen others doing that too, kids these days. In the end, Mrs. (what’s her name now!) drove me on the day of my graduation down the street, to a hair salon on the corner of Las Tunas and Longden. She said, it’s your special day, I want you to look 100% perfect. Or something like that. She paid the hair dresser $20 to have my hair braided. When the lady was done, she stood back and furrowed her eyebrows. She opened a drawer and riffed through its contents, and finally pulled out a big velvet black bow clip. She put that on the end of my braid, and both women smiled. “Can I take that too? How much would you charge for it?” She paid another $5.
Wish I knew her last name, Mrs. What’shernameIcannolongerrecall… She gave a young girl’s confidence wings.
Here I am, in another hand–me-down dress.
I just realized now, that dress was missing a sash. 8-year-olds these days dress older than I did back then. If I were a boy, I would have been a pretty boy. My features were androgynous. I got mistaken for being a boy quite a few times, long hair and all. Grandpa just got to the US, and dad was taking this picture. We didn’t even try, but our clothes all matched.
While I’m nostalgic, here are some more old photos.
probably around 4.5-5 years old in Vung Tau – May looks like this sometimes.
probably around 1. Tim’s face, no?