Today my son is nine. He is not a small boy anymore and in less than a decade he will be an adult, although I have a hard time imagining him as a grown man. Time is so sneaky. It crawls through the cracks unseen, slowly eroding the foundations of your life. But for my son it is bliss. He yearns to grow up, go on adventures, taste life in its purest form.
He reminds me of myself. I couldn’t wait to turn eighteen and explore the world. To the great detriment of my dear parents I fought throughout my adolescence as a trapped rat struggling for freedom. I nearly gnawed off my limbs. I can’t keep from praying that my son won’t become like I
was－an uncontrollable dragon set to self-destruct. I fear the laws of karma. When one has so thoroughly embarrassed herself and hurt the people she loves, karma is destined to kick her in the butt. Fortunately, I will still have a few more years to prepare myself for the worst. Abu is only nine. That means, if he’s anything like me, I can expect him to start raising hell in about four years time. This last thought encourages me to get out of bed.
Abu and his sister are already scurrying about. I hear their tiny footsteps on the stone tiles and their exited gasps when they open their bedroom door and see that all the walls are completely covered with balloons. They know that they aren’t supposed to wake me and I can sense their struggle to remain quiet. It won’t be long before their excitement turns into an endless, earsplitting record－‘Mommy, mommy, mommy. It’s my birthday! Mommy!’ I opt to preserve my eardrums and not to keep
As expected I find both my kids right outside my door, smiling from ear to ear. I give them both a big hug, and an extra kiss for Abu. That beautiful face. Suddenly, I can’t believe that he will ever grow up to be a teen monster like his mum. Who knows? Today, at least, I shall cherish.
I am lying in my bed with my nose below the covers. The electric blanket radiates a comfortable heat, which makes me want to stay in my cocoon forever. Luckily, I don’t have to get up. The kids are still quiet. Yesterday
was late. We watched as the sky lit up at midnight and bright flowers of flames blossomed against in dark, cloud-infested curtain. My throat still feels raw from the excited gasps and ‘wows’ that passed through my mouth as I admired the spectacle above our heads. This kind of dazzling display of fireworks can only
be found in China.
‘No, the kids will remain knocked out for at least two more hours,’ I tell
myself, purr a sigh of content, and snuggle deeper into my little nest.
BAM, BAM, BAM! I jolt upright, my heart slamming against the insides of my chest. The fresh morning breeze, streaming in through the tiny
openings between the window frame and wall, hits my face. I shiver out of reflex, but not because the tip of my nose instantly feels like a deep-frozen Popsicle. It takes me a minute to understand that the loud repetitious noise I’m hearing isn’t that of a person emptying a machine gun below my window. The landlord has begun his yearly ritual.
To ban evil spirits from entering his home on New Year’s morning
Mr. Zhang sets off a one-hundred-thousand celebration roll－which unfolds into an infinite string of firecrackers. However, this year he doesn’t seem sure that one coil of mini-bombs is sufficient to shun the ghosts that haunt him. Just when I am ready to retrieve my eardrums, a second serenade of gunfire comes my way, this time originating from the left side of the house. Carefully,
I push back the curtains. I can’t see anything, but the vast billowing plume of smoke that enwraps the entire house. Sulphury fumes filter inside. Five minutes pass before also this gigantic firecracker runs out of ammo. But I can’t relax yet. Something tells me that there is more to come. And I’m right. Mr. Zhang is relentless. Having covered the south and east sides of our building, he moves on to the north and finally concludes his reign of ear-splitting raucous in the west. I guess this year he’s desperate for good fortune and determined to keep out even the tiniest phantom who might stand in his way.
Suddenly the entire neighborhood explodes. Every house is torpedoed with red confetti as firecrackers ignite and paint the ground into a
I guess its time to get up after all.
V.V. Aku: writer, mother, rock-climber, kung fu addict. and explorer, lived in China on the border of Tibet with her Black Yi family for over a decade. She recently moved back to The Netherlands where she devotes her time to writing book and scripts for film and TV.