All posts tagged childhood

  • Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

    “I read to be alone. I read so as not to be so alone.”


    I just finished reading Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen that my friend and fellow English major gave me months ago. It’s about the cultural-conflicts a Vietnamese-born American girl faces growing up in Michigan. Basically. So much of it resonated with the same feelings I felt growing up. I’ll admit, that her’s seemed intensified by also having a Mexican stepmother and a fixation on food, but my own story is intensified in different ways.

    I wrote to my friend, Harry, thanking him for the book and confessing that it made me want to write about my own family again. When I was little, I wanted to be a writer. I was convinced that I was going to be the next great American writer :). I would begin many cliched stories that I never finished. Then, in my junior year of high school, I was accepted into this special program through a local college to take a university course over the summer. Of course what else would I choose but the English course: Autobiographical Reading and Writing. I had never considered writing about myself, but I realized after taking that class that it was something that was much more do-able for me because I knew how the character felt and how the story ended. My professor was really encouraging  and I loved the class. By the end, we had to combine our three, five-page assignments into what was supposed to be a flowing 15-page vignette of moments in our lives.

    I love reading memoirs: Jenneatte Walls, Frank McCourt, Betty Smith, Amy Tan, Dave Eggers…. I always admire how brave they are to write about their own crazy families and share with the world their intimate feelings. I always think I could never do that. What would my family think? My mom would scoff and make her clicking Vietnamese disapproval noise, most likely.

    But what do you think? Who would want to read it? Even a book like Nguyen’s, I wonder who would want to read it besides other Asian-American or “outsiders” or people who are forced to read it in class.

    It reminded me of my strong desire to Americanize when I was little, my harsh denial of my Vietnamese culture. I longed for American food and snacks, like Bich. I remember our unkempt yard, wanting more than anything for our house to be like all my American friends (I still do). Having my blond, blue-eyed friends all throughout elementary school and wanting to be more like them. Visiting their house, trying to absorb all the normalness their homes exuded. At the same time, feeling out of place in my own Vietnamese family. None of us had an ao dais which was a constant embarrassment during family holidays, my dad didn’t (doesn’t) work and is the abrasive black sheep of the family, and my parent never taught as Vietnamese because they thought it would hold is back in school so we always had to face the disappointment of our relatives when they tried to communicate with us…

  • 5: Childhood games

    Ok, I couldn’t do The Ugly today because, come on, it’s between my brother’s and my birthday. It just didn’t seem appropriate.  Instead, I’m going to do the some of the games that my siblings, my neighbors, and I played when we were wee ones.



    01 | Vroom Vroom Car.

    My brother invented this game. Basically, you get all of the comforters, blankets, and pillows in the house and pile them onto the couch. Then you sit on top of all them in a row and the drive tells you when the bus is turning (Going left! Going Right!) or if we’re going over a bump (“Going up!” *jump*).  I can’t remember if this was the case for Ben and Diane, but I usually ended up just burrowing into the blankets as if it was a labyrinth.

    02 | Hide the Bone.

    This was a variation of the “getting warmer…no colder! Ice! Antarctica!” game where one kid hides something and the other people have to look for it. I remember once I bought an analog, battery-powered alarm clock (that’s right, I bought my own alarm clock when I was still in elementary school because I knew early that I was a nerd. I suspect that little oblong alarm clock started my love affair with analog clocks) and we would use it for the game. My brother would set the time and hide it and my sister and I used the beeping to find it.

    03 | Adventures in Wondercave.

    Pretty epic title, right? This was a game we played with our neighbors, Mike & Rob.  We were all superheros (well, if we want to get into particulars, my sister and I were princesses and the boys were superheros. I rode a pegasus and she rode a phoenix) and our trampoline happened to teleport us into alternative universes where we would have to fight out way out. There was the place that turned everything into pepperoni pizza, the witch that turned our swing set into a giant Oreo cookie and we had to eat our way out, and umm, the place that just had crumby weather.

    04 | X-men/Power Rangers.

    I was always Storm and I still stand strongly behind that decision. She could fly and she could control the weather. Obviously the best x-lady. And who wants to be Trini? No one, that’s who.

    05 | Hostage (aka Tie each other up).

    Perhaps not the most inventive game, but it was fun. We were all in Tae Kwon Do as kids and had a ton of belts. So we would take turns tying each other up as well as we could so that the hostage couldn’t get out. We were either really good at getting out or really terrible at tying knots because we always managed to wriggle free.

    And I could list some of the games that I played alone when I was little, some of which are pretty embarrassing, but let’s keep it in the family this time.

  • 5: winter memories

    01| My siblings and I being the only little kids in the family so getting ALL of the presents :)

    02| Making igloos in the backyard with my brother and sister

    03| Getting a red sled with a tiny chair and brakes. (also going sledding for the first time was pretty cool!)

    04| Not being able to open up the sliding door because of our mittens and the cold. We would bang on the door and scream and ring the doorbell until my mom let us in. Kids are so cute! (She would have hot tea waiting for us too).

    05| Always starting a snowman, but giving up before it’s done. I did make a snow woman once though.

    Happy Holidays.

  • 5: Childhood fears

    Five things that I was afraid of when I was little:

    01| The Dark. “Where anything can happen/kill you”

    02| Accidentally selling my soul to the devil. My sister read me this story of a man who sold his soul to the devil and later deeply regretted it. It wasn’t a particularly religious story, but I was afraid of wanting something so bad that I would accidentally say “I would do anything for ___” and then the devil will show up and take my soul. I would chant “I will not sell my soul” to myself sometimes.

    03| The house circulation fan. I don’t know if these are typical in everyone’s house, but in the middle of our hallway ceiling there is a fan behind big shudders. When you turn it on, the shudders opens and then it starts sucking in air. It’s loud. My next door neighbor told my older brother that there was a hobo who lived inside it that eats 9-year-old boys. Now, I realized my brother, being nine, was the one who was in the real trouble. In fact, I knew Robbie was making the whole story up, I swear. But it was still kind of a creepy thought. I always felt like there was someone watching me when I was under it. It still makes me uncomfortable.

    04| Ghosts. Definitely.

    05| My dad. Usually when I had done something wrong, bad, or both. But sometimes just in general.