An Authentic Nostalgia
I sipped the red wine from the crystal glass after clinking it with my mom’s. That
eminent sound had broken the blank dimension following the clock’s minute hand tiptoeing toward the number “12”—the first day of the New Year in California. There was barely a wind breezing; a vast grass patch was soaked in cold dew; the sky was deep dark. Windows of neighboring houses filled with a vague movement of silhouettes casted by the dimmed orange light of a distant chandelier in the lifeless living room. Doors shut. Secure. Implicit.
The memory of the Vietnamese New Year was appearing in my mind, in its most vivid appearance, rejuvenating an old memory which I felt like the impression was just established yesterday. I missed that dominantly warm tint invading the floral fair with kumquat trees and cherry blossoms and apricot blossoms; vendors and customers conversated in a high pitch of excitement. I missed complimenting my cousins in ao dai with patterns of a dragon and a phoenix elegantly dancing around on it. I missed, when my family went to the grocery store, dozens of goods wrapped in soft plain carmine papers hypnotizing my eyes every time. I missed those red lanterns swimming like a flock of koi above my head, and chains of red plates in diamond shapes embedded with golden-threaded letters Van Su Nhu Y** (1) glittering under the sun. I missed watching mua lan** (2) performance, in which well-ornamented figures danced vigorously along with the sounds of drums and cymbals, and the fringes on the lion’s head flirted with the chanting air.
I missed tearing out the first few pages on a new calendar hung on the wall so that the big number “1” showed off in front of everyone. I missed the round tray where keo hat sen, mut bi, mut dua, hat dua, hat dieu, banh dau xanh, banh thung** (3) laid peacefully, and children around the neighborhoods would come and rampage it. I missed the “Happy New Year” songs sung in my native language from the aged radio purchased by my grandfather after 1975 playing throughout the day. What made me feel most nostalgic? I missed receiving lucky money in the red envelopes embraced with wishes from my grandparents, my parents, my relatives, my neighbors, or any guests coming to my house. And I missed the convivial eating and drinking during three days of the New Year consisted of well-prepared food and rice wine.
“How about going to Little Saigon**(4) tomorrow?”, the hoarse voice of my mom snapped me back to the dim reality. I agreed, letting my excitement conquered in my dream, but it turned out killing my mood. At a luxurious-looking shop, I stared at one of the traditional costumes, where the costumes were piled in bulks, like toys in a claw machine. The entrance was built with fabricated wood to imitate the solemnity of the structure of the pagoda, standing humbly, fading behind the outstandingly untrimmed branches of trees. A Vietnamese restaurant, with Mon An Thuan Tuy Viet Nam** (5) manufactured in a gaudy font, sunk in a faint fake fragrant.
A Vietnamese waitress deposited a bowl of pho on the expensive table, but instead of handing me a pair of chopsticks, she dispensed a spoon and a fork. I pondered at our unimpressive transaction, pondered at the shiny silvery fork, pondered at the Westernized style, pondered at the degeneration of an authentic culture.
*1 Everything you wish for will become true
2 Dragon (or lion) dance
3 Traditional snacks served during Lunar New Year for guests to come and enjoy
4 A Vietnamese community in Orange County
5 Authentic Vietnamese Food
by Timm Vo
Hoang Kim Vo (pen name Timm Vo) is a Biological Science major at UCI, where he pursues the medical career. Timm is enthusiastic in the STEM field; however, he is also passionate about languages, cultures, literature, and politics. He has written two short stories for the Patient Project as a freshman.