Monday, November 19, 2007

Remembering Hong Kong

I am recalling first memories. So delicate, like shutter clicks in the mind. They could be a dream, but I know that they are not. I am no more than four years old, wearing little red canvas sneakers. Always red canvas sneakers. I always wanted my mother to buy me ones of a different color, like pink, but my mother said that red would hide the dirt better, so red sneakers is what I got.

I am standing outside of a large Buddhist temple in Hong Kong. I cannot go in with my sneakers on. So I take off my shoes and socks. Freedom in my little bare feet. I like the slapping sound that my feet make as I run around on the cold cement. I can smell the long thin red burning incense sticks propped up next to blue bowls of oranges, set out as offerings. My mother shushes me to be quite. She tells me that the temple is a place for prayer and meditation, like when we go to church. I don't really understand, but I like to watch everything. I like to watch the monks in their robes. In this particular temple, the Buddha is gold and I think it has red lips and always has long ear lobs with a faint smile. The Buddha is huge, as big as a one story building. Sometimes they are much bigger though.

I remember that across the street from the temple was a McDonald's.(Of all things!) I used to love to go to "Old McDonald's". (You know, like the song?) I don't think my sister was born yet, but I remember walking over there after playing around the temple, and my brother Ryan would be in the stroller and my mother wore a blue wrap skirt with white flowers on it.

Once a week, my mother would order fish and the Fish Man would come to our apartment. I Loved the Fish Man. He wore black plants and a black shirt and little back shoes. "Nee-how-ma!" I would always say to him when he came to the door. "Oh, Nee-how-ma!" He would say and smile an almost toothless grin. He and my mother would talk in Chinese about what she wanted and then he would squat down right outside the doorway and unwrap the fish from newspaper and chop off it's head. I loved to watch him work. Then he would wrap the fish back up again in the newspaper. Before he would leave he would reach into his pocket and pull out a green piece of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum and hand it to me. That's what I loved most about the Fish Man. I could always count on him for a yummy piece of gum! "Shea Shea Nee" I would say to him. Which meant "Thank you very much." Then my mother would pay him and off he would go.

I particularly love that memory of the Fish Man and the gum. I identify so strongly with that as part of my childhood. Sometimes it feels good to reach back into the sweet thoughts of growning up and remember things that are special. Things that no one else can relate to, the simple things, things that make you, you.


david mcmahon said...

Colleen, now you know why I'm such a big fan.

The more you write, the more fortunate we are .....

Dan Mega said...

Ditto to David.

I wish I had the ability to express my thoughts like this. Very nice.

Colleen said...

David and Dan- Well, I'm quite the fan of both of you too!