I discovered concerning the capturing in my beloved metropolis the morning after it occurred. On Sunday, my sister-in-law known as to rearrange the placement of our New 12 months’s lunch. However it was a puzzling dialog.
“I’m glad you are OK,” she began.
“What do you mean? Why wouldn’t I be OK?” I requested.
“About what happened last night,” she defined. Which to me wasn’t an evidence, however one other thriller to resolve.
“So I think we should find another place for lunch,” she continued. “How about the Guadalajara Grill?”
“Well, I love Mexican food, but, uh, are you sure? Isn’t today the first day of, uh, Chinese New Year?” I ventured, hoping to not offend, and attempting to clear my morning mind fog. (I’d been pulling all-nighters to complete a brand new play.)
“You don’t know about it, do you?” she mentioned.
“Know about what?”
That is how I discovered concerning the tragedy on the ballroom, which is positioned solely about 5 minutes from my mom’s dwelling in Monterey Park, a stupendous metropolis the place the traditions, languages and customs of my upbringing have made a everlasting dwelling. MPK is a delicate suburban melting pot with 13 parks, one domed observatory and a cascading waterfall. It’s heaven for each Asian foodies and devotees of colourful mismatching grandma avenue style. And it doesn’t should be endlessly related to mass homicide.
So sure, I like town the place I grew up, and I like my sister-in-law talking in riddles. What struck me about her cautious and veiled dialog was the Herculean effort to stick to certainly one of two vital tenets for welcoming in a Chinese language New 12 months and guaranteeing a fortunate 12 months to comply with.
The primary tenet is the explanation my sister-in-law was being so cloak-and-dagger; she was attempting to respect the taboo towards spreading dangerous information. Phrases like “death,” “killing,” “murder” and “shooting” can be tantamount to beckoning dangerous juju into existence, a flagrant violation of a correct Lunar New 12 months mind-set.
To this finish, just a few days earlier, my mother had mandated a TV information blackout. She set this moratorium to carry again the surging tide of issues flawed on the planet — war, lies, malfeasance — coming into our dwelling and mucking up our new yr luck. Mother shouldn’t be solely a fanatical viewer of basketball but additionally of the information (CNN, MSNBC, late-night discuss exhibits), so this blockade was neither a joke nor a simple factor to keep up. However we have been doing it. My sister-in-law was merely respecting these needs when she known as me that horrible morning.
My brother Will and I all the time practiced this form of obligatory pleasure initially of the weeks-long annual celebration. At a younger age, we’re inculcated by our elders — these near us in addition to buddies who turned aunties, uncles and cousins by well mannered acclamation. Each crimson envelope given as a present on the new yr got here with smiling recitations of gorgeous sentences carrying heartfelt sentiments bestowing luck, prosperity and good well being, with ardent hopes that every one our hearts’ wishes can be fulfilled within the coming yr.
At the same time as toddlers, we have been taught to say good phrases, suppose completely satisfied ideas, preserve a optimistic perspective concerning the future — for ourselves and for everybody round us. Particularly for my small household, as a result of the New 12 months is about household. And since Will, my solely brother, handed away 5 years in the past.
Being at dwelling with your loved ones, consuming bland ceremonial meals and honoring our ancestors with lighted candles, bowls of white rice and Chinese language whiskey, with every member of the family bowing thrice earlier than the aforementioned bland ceremonial meals — that’s Chinese language New 12 months.
Fact be advised, whereas rising up I didn’t admire these ceremonies or the utterance of excellent phrases. I simply wished the crimson envelopes with their crisp new cash. Not a lot these magical phrases of well-wishes, spoken in my mom’s native Taishanese, dashing at me in a smiling torrent of beautiful intentions in a language I barely converse — a dying language lots of whose native audio system at the moment are of their late-stage golden years. A language belonging to my grandparents and fogeys, the generations who sacrificed and tolerated greater than I’ll ever know, who emigrated bravely, dreaming of a greater life not for themselves however for his or her kids.
And now, their American dream has collided with an American nightmare we tolerate for no good reason — one which on the daybreak of the 12 months of the Rabbit has pressured us to violate a deep taboo simply to make sure our family members are secure.
The second vital tenet of the Lunar New 12 months is the requirement to be dwelling for the vacation. Far-flung kids are imagined to dutifully fly dwelling and be with the household. I’m a lot better at respecting this now since I used to be pressured to be dwelling for the final three years by the pandemic. Earlier than the lockdown, I all the time selected to attend out-of-town rehearsals or get pleasure from snowfall on the East Coast on the brand new yr, celebrating with buddies and even strangers, by no means realizing why my mom fretted so deeply — and loudly — concerning the threat I unknowingly incurred to my very own good luck.
The truth is, this previous Monday, to my mom’s nice consternation, I used to be imagined to be in Boston, attending a primary rehearsal for my newest play. However what occurred on the ballroom is a harsh reminder that this, too, is a rule to respect and cherish. Since I moved again to Los Angeles, being dwelling in Monterey Park, taking good care of mother, I’ve reconnected to the neighborhood and tradition that raised me. And I’ve discovered to absorb these magical phrases with gratitude.
So to honor our elders and ancestors, in addition to the households shattered by this mindless, silly tragedy, and to help town — my dwelling — pulled immediately into the nationwide limelight, I’m sharing just a few of the nice phrases, in my clumsy phonetic approximations:
Sien neen fi lok.
Gung hay fats choy.
Sien hello geen hong.
Chut yeep hen on.
Slem sleng slu sen.
All my life, I’ve heard these phrases. At instances, I’ve heard them as gibberish, compulsory sayings everybody who speaks Taishanese or Cantonese appears to know. Different years, like this yr — particularly this yr — I hear solely pressing, fervent prayer. I want our nation therapeutic and peace. I want for an finish to this insanity.
Wong is a playwright and theater director based mostly in Los Angeles. Her newest comedy is, “@Lys,” based mostly on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata.