In six hours we are supposed to turn our our clocks back, although that would be two o’clock in the morning and I would be surprised if anyone actually did such a thing. I’l change them tomorrow morning, with a bit of sadness that so little daylight will be in the evening for a few months.
The picture here is actually from a week ago and not nearly so many leaves are here. Fall was lovely and some trees are still hanging on to their bright gold or scarlet leaves, but they are few.
I have mixed feelings about the next six months! Of course I love the build-up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, though I don’t decorate nearly as much as I once did. And it’s nice to make more soups and stews and curl up with good books earlier. (Though I read a lot every day.) But I think I love the sunny longer days from May to September best, if foolishly since every day can be as good as you let it be . I will have to work a little to get out into the daylight when we have it here!
And speaking of reading: I just read two books by Bich Minh Ngyuen. The first was her memoir, Stealing Buddah’s Dinner, and the second a novel, Short Girls. Both are about the immigrant experience.
Bich was born a year before my daughter Alice who was born on April 30, 1975, the day the headlines read “South Vietnam Surrenders”. Her father, sister, grandmother and two uncles left Vietnam on one of the last boats out the day before Alice was born. Their family ended up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a town we always drove through in the 50s when I went with my grandparents, Nana and Papa, to visit Papa’s two brothers who had farms in southwestern Michigan, near Allegan, despite their upbringing as Swedish boys from turn of the century Chicago.
This book is quite well written and honest, I think. And the author’s life has turned out well. She teaches at Purdue as does her husband, the writer Porter Shreve. I can relate to her experience in an odd way because so many of the cultural things in America at the time of her childhood are the ones Alice and Emily were encountering – the unusual fashions, the music, the hair styles, Bich’s family even a strange Ponderosa interlude as we did!
Some of the book makes me think of how surprisingly we are each tied to the time and place where we first encountered the world and grew up. My generation was the late 40s and 50s in a secure and prosperous US (the nuclear threat notwithstanding). My husband’s was the same time but another place – communist Hungary. His family had been “evil” landowners before the war, and highly suspect because of their serious Catholicism. When Paul began school at the age of six he carried an identity card which called him something like “stranger to the nation” because of this pariah like background.
The immigrant experience is so life-altering. You can truly be between two worlds. But Bich didn’t have a really strong gounding in what it might have meant to be Vietnamese, just enough to make her feel different. She was very young when she came, and her father was caught up in his own world, dealing with his own challenges, and her mother had been left behind in Vietnam because of some difficult circumstances, and slowly Bich lost most of her native language, a language she could only have been beginning to speak when they left… Perhaps her loving connection to her strong peaceful seemingly unshakeable Buddhist grandmother was the strongest tie she had to Vietnamese culture. But truly she was connected to Vietnamese-American culture which is different than Vietnamese culture.
Her life was so different from Paul’s experience. He was an eleven year old boy when they escaped and although he always thought his vocabulary was not what it would have been if he had been older when he left , he was certainly well grounded in Hungarian language and culture….He was the youngest in a large family with a strong sense of its own history and a Catholic background which gave them a framework from which to view everything that was happening to them. They came to Cleveland, Ohio, a city with a strong Hungarian presence for more than 100 years, and where they had an aunt, uncle and three cousins.
Bich seemed to have to figure everything out for herself, from a place of isolation. And she did.
I would like to have read more of Bich’s later life. The detailed descriptions of the world as she saw it end when she begins high school, though there are brief parts relating to a later time, when her mother turned up in the US.
I recommend this book for it’s clear honesty, though it often made me sad.