Yesterday’s Tet


Tonight is New Year‘s Eve (Giao Thua) here in Vietnam.

Senator McCain and Lieberman are also here on their SEA trip.

But many years ago, McCain probably heard the sound of firecrackers. Tonight, there won’t be firecrackers, but everything should happen just as it has for centuries: visit ancestor’s graves or ash stored next to a church or a temple), wash one’s scooter, do one’s  hair and nail, clean the house, and set up the household altar (the Jews could relate to this since they observe Pass Over just as strictly).

Retail stores even gave their mannequins a change of clothes.

Supermarkets cleared out inventories and flower vendors are holding fire sales.

If I can turn back the clock, I would be the one shining the bronze set for the altar, get the confiture tray  and watermelon seeds in the middle of the coffee table.

Red (lucky) envelopes are also stuffed with brand new money.

A friend of my mother, also a teacher, made an indelible impression which has stayed with me for years. Instead of gifting me big denomination paper money, she had me hold out my hands to receive two-handfuls of shiny coins. The act of giving is more important than the gift itself.

Great Uncle, always seen with a beret, would be the first to show up on New Year’s day. His name was Mai, which was the same as our flower of choice.

My brother, a few days before, tried to get a date with his eventual first wife. Two couples and a young boy (me) packed into a Simcar.

At that Flower Festival, we got separated. I immediately with a red balloon, found my way back to and then stood on top of the Simcar.

Needless to say, we are now drifted apart and it would be silly for me to hold up a red balloon every time I want to be found.  To me, Yesterday’s Tet was just as warm and full of memory as it is now.

It’s an occasion to make concessions, to reconcile and to move forward.

New Year’s Eve doesn’t just usher in another calendar year. In fact, the year gets renamed and rebranded (Year of the Dragon).

By the time the next cycle comes around in twelve years, I hope we are all still here, looking back to this one as Yesterday’s Tet.

We will still be laughing, and crying at the same time, for some of us won’t probably be around. Yet Tet goes on, like a line in Reflections of my Life “the changing, of moon light, to sun light, reflections of my life”.

That song was played while Senator McCain was in Hanoi Hilton.

It is no longer known among the next generation of music lovers.

But to those who paid a dear price during the time when Vietnam was synonymous to war, the line between life and death was undeniably thin.

I hope the Senator find a new Vietnam, full of noise, except for firecrackers and firearms. It’s more peaceful now, and just as joyous as ever.

With Tet, I don’t have to exercise selective memory that much. It is happening again, just like a long-lost friend, showing up predictably with set habits and hobbies. Yesterday’s Tet or tomorrow’s: same.

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