Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy Tet: Year of the Pig Edition

We wake up, as we have for some time now, to a cold morning. Bitter, in fact. The snow that fell last week has held on, growing a thick crust in the single-digit nights so that the parks glisten with porcelain. Last week The Boy tried making prints on our way back from his school, but, try as he might, his boots wouldn't dent the dense drifts. Snowmen were out of the question. Q wouldn't even let me put her down outside.

When it's cold outside like this, the day usually becomes a puzzle. How to make things interesting inside for hours?

Today, though, is special. It's Tet, or lunar new year, and we celebrate it. My Lovely Wife is always serious about bowls of steaming noodles on this day, so we plan how we can welcome the year of the pig correctly. We decide to begin with bagels, and I volunteer to defy the wind for seven grain and whole wheat bagels with strawberry cream cheese. The warmth of the bagels leaks out of the bag as soon as it hits my hands, and I seriously consider putting one in each mitten for the walk back (even though it's not that far home). I ultimately resist the urge; we're a three-bagel family now, which means that I can't be so cavalier with breakfast.

After bagels are down and my Lovely Wife and I have too many cups of coffee to keep count, we invite good friends from the building down to work over the toys. The Vietnamese believe that the first person to enter your house in the new year will bring good luck, and we feel great about our choice.

After they leave, we have lunch. My Lovely Wife makes egg noodle soup with chicken, snow peas, onions, and cilantro. She and I spike ours with chili sauce (hers until it practically glows pink) and fend off the kids' spoons and chopsticks as we all eat together. Q & The Boy both demolish their bowls per usual with Asian food. When everything's empty we call Ba Ngoai & Ong Ngoai to wish them a happy new year; Q sings sweet songs into the phone, and everyone who can hear her smiles.

While Q naps, The Boy & my Lovely Wife engage in another Tet tradition that I fully endorse--namely making cream puffs. I retreat to my desk to try to get some more grading done, and I can smell the choux ballooning in the oven. After a while, The Boy glides in with a wide smile and a plate with a cream puff flecked with confectioner's sugar. I gladly take it, and he runs off to let his mother know that he's done his job. A little later he returns to ask if I want another; I answer him before he finishes asking, and he's off to the kitchen. He comes back with two this time, and when I take the plate he snatches one as he leaves, trailing "This one's for me!"

Q is still sleeping, so my Lovely Wife and The Boy head upstairs to play with the friends who were down earlier. I finally rouse Q around 4 p.m., and when I tell her where her mother and brother are she makes it clear where she wants to go. Up in their apartment, The Boy and his friend and his sister are all standing in a large box. Our friends, sadly, are moving out soon, like most families we became close with since setting up our home here. In any event, all the boxes light up the kids' imaginations, and Q & The Boy don't seem to notice the emptier rooms. We do.

When empty stomachs make for short tempers, we head back down for shoes and coats and for a local Chinese restaurant that Q & The Boy love. We order duck lo mein and chicken with vegetables and bean curd in black bean sauce. (Ironically, perhaps, no pork dish.) While we wait for the food, Q suggests we see the sushi, and we watch the chef craft and carve California rolls. They look pretty good, and my Lovely Wife and wonder together if we should order some for the kids to try. Before we can follow the thought where it leads, our food beats us to our table, the three oval plates throwing up steam. The noodles have their usual wonderful smoky flavor, and Q takes them in by the handful. We sip tea and water from those handleless cups. One bowl of rice disappears, then another. The kids have always been pretty good eating out, and, as expected, they make it easy for us to enjoy ourselves.

Back home, we call grandma & grandpa to give more new year's wishes. Q sings and counts and generally shows off, constantly checking that the phone's speaker is on. The Boy stops taking pictures with our old digital camera long enough to tell them how excited he is for our upcoming visit in March. They haven't seen Q & The Boy for over a year, which amounts to half of Q's life at this point. We say goodnight and head for baths, showers, songs, and bed.

The house is quiet now. I'm back at my desk taking down the day; my Lovely Wife works away on a pocket Rubik's cube that our friends lent us. She's actually getting close to solving it (after only a slight peek at the Internet). The Year of the Pig is her year, and my year (of the Dog) has slowed to a close. I feel not so much a sense of newness but of momentum, that we're in motion even if we're not sure exactly of the path we're on. We move, we eat, we puzzle. Together.

Happy New Year. Peace and happiness to you all.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Rob,
Thanks so much for sharing a snipet of your daily life. It just helps us to know you better and love you more.
Mother