Written by Alma Mark

Edited by Emerald Liu

On Chinese New Year
I think of all the years that came before
And of how much the world has changed
And how much I have too


I’ll think of my cousins, now grown
Whose smiles have already been long faded by the weight of time and circumstance
And how if Po-po and Gung-gung were still here they’d slip glossy red hóngbāo into my hands
And I would bow, chanting “too generous, too generous”
While I began thinking of all the things I’d like to order from mama’s clothing catalogue


I’ll think of Mama in the kitchen
The sounds of clattering pots and muffled curses at the burning of garlic
I’d be in charge of peeling the snow pea pods
When she’s not looking I’d sneak a few into the pot unpeeled
And with the shake of a warning finger
She’d remind me to never ring in the new year early
The way she does every year


But in the dead of night on New Year’s Eve
I would whisper beneath my covers
A ragged but silent gung hay fat choy
Disobeying my mother’s words
And it was always enough to explain away the misfortunes of that year
But now that I’m older I see these are only superstitions


And this year
Much like every year
Mama will say
“Don’t sweep the floors for why sweep away joy?”
And it makes me think that perhaps all these years
Of the regret and disappointment
Of dusty floorboards
Were not wasted after all
And I will face the cold morning air with a knowing smile
For the best is yet to come

Illustration by Peri Law
Instagram: @perijlaw

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