Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Bunny. Cottontail. Lagomorph. Cuniculus.Lapin. Chinchilla. Hare. Or as Elmer Fudd would say, “Wabbits.” It’s that time of the year again when the East celebrates with “dong dong dong dong qiang” while the West preps the season with chocolates and candles. While swimming amongst the tiles at the mahjong table, I realized that this year’s Chinese New Year break is rather short, and somewhat dispirited. Ever since grandma passed away in ’01, we kids stopped seeing rolling pins on the table. Grandpa would take the thick strand of dough and at every thumb’s measure he’d tear it off and toss it on the floured table. Grandma would be sitting on a short stool next to him when she rolled these little pieces into flat round disks. After every two strands, they would stop and start using chopsticks to spread dumpling fillings onto these disks. As kids we helped with rolling, and sometimes even with the stuffing, but what never ceases to amaze me are my grandma’s agile thumbs and index fingers. The coherence of which forms a neat stitch pattern to close off the dumpling, which never exploded in the boiling water. Patience was quick to wear out on my cousins and I, so after a basket was filled with dumplings (sometimes not even) we would run out to the nearest convenience store to grab chips and soda. When we returned, we’d be forced out of the living room and to go to the next room for impolitely hogging the television remote. Of course, as we got a little older we knew why but we had every reason to keep one eye shut. In our absence, grandpa would take out a roll of new 1NT coins he got from the bank and put one in every other dumpling. We’d busy ourselves with television, firecrackers, snacks, games and more fireworks. As midnight approached, grandpa would join the neighborhood ruckus and ignite our bian-pao that he held on an end of the bamboo stick that we used regularly to hang dry our clothes. After, we’d gather around the dining table again. Sometimes we would recite lucky/joyful greetings to grandparents, uncles & aunts, in hopes of getting a thicker hong-bao. But the real competition always began with grandma walking out of the kitchen with steaming plates of dumplings. As soon as grandma rejoined us at her seat, grandpa would slap a huge stack of hundreds on the table, signaling the start of an often-wasteful race. We’d usually end up taking more dumplings than we can stomach. For every coin found we get a hundred dollar bill, exchangeable only after we washed our own used bowl. Parents are usually the ones who are bloated after this tradition. The muscle aches of my grandparents must be even more torturous the following day but they’d always smile whenever we found a bronze coin. A decade’s passed and it’s the first time I’ve celebrated Chinese New Years with the family in four years. Though our traditions of gathering and gambling live on but I still miss the sight of my grandma walking out of the kitchen. Happy CNY, best in health and cherish the lovely family moments.

Bookmark and Share

No comments: