“Sleep, sleep, sleep,” my mother says. But I cannot help thinking about waking the next morning. To the white and pink light, to the green-winged pigeon’s murmuring, to the breathing of my brothers, to my uncle already speaking his mind to the pig. To rolling from my sleeping, my twisted covers, my corner mattress. To touching one toe to the floor, my own luck for the new year.
Tet is coming. Our village is scented with plum blossoms, sweet mandarins, the burnt sugar aroma of lotus-seed candy, the thick pungent air of sticky rice and pork for the banh chung we will eat. The days are full of so much doing, getting ready, and the nights come too quickly.
Outside, in their hutches, the hares and rabbits bump their wooden bowls. I hear my grandfather telling them secrets, the sound of a latch opening and closing, his footsteps coming closer. “An,” he says, calling to me, his face in the window above my bed. “This one is for you.” He shows me a small brown rabbit, the size of a teacake, its ears short and straight, its nose moving and moving. I reach up to feel its whiskers and my mother stills my hands and my grandfather smiles and is gone. Only his soft voice separates the day from the night.
The moon rises, round, the color of an almond cookie. I think of taking it into my mouth, whole. Of chewing and chewing until the night is swallowed up in darkness and I am the only thing shining, my belly full of moonlight. I would open my mouth and laugh out loud. And then my brothers would know I’d eaten the moon by the way I glowed, my skin giving off pale yellow light.
“Sleep,” my mother says. She strokes my back, the place between my shoulders, the place where I imagine wings will grow if I do things right. If I listen to her tell me about how to fold the banana leaves around the rice cake, how to tie them up with brown string. If I listen to grandfather leaning over the rabbit hutches, describing the difference between breeds, how lop ears and the thickest, darkest fur might explain the meaning of life. If I listen to uncle telling the pig about his first wife, how she was no good but he loved her like his heart might burst. If I listen to my older brother’s advice about riding a bicycle so that then I can teach my younger brother about the way the wheels turn once your feet press against the pedals, how the wind can only go as fast as the pedals can turn and the wheels can spin.
The moon is like an old woman laughing, her mouth wide open, her eyes closed. I reach up from my covers into the cool January sky, and my fingertips graze her cheek. She opens her eyes and looks at me. “Tomorrow, to welcome Tet, the eldest boy must touch his feet to the floor first,” she says. “Boys have the luck; girls must not be so bold.” I take my hand back quickly and feel my mother’s calm strokes across my neck, the back of my head.
In the morning I will touch the floor first, just a little, and then I will wait until my brothers stretch and set their square feet down. My own luck will mix with their luck and the lunar year will begin with a new kind of brightness. The old woman moon will lay her face in the fields and close her eyes. No one will know.