Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Moon party

In Hong Kong, it's the Mid Autumn Festival. It's a pretty big party. It's a full moon party. A perfect excuse to watch dragons tumble and roll, then scoff sticky thick cake with its round rich yellow egg balanced amongst the pastries. Full bellied with delicious blessings of the moon, you can holiday from work, eat, talk and laugh with your family, light candles, swing lanterns, open your palm to the sky and watch the moonbeams travel down to strike the silver coins you hold.

For us, it's a date we have to take ourselves to the beach. We'll watch the sea roll in and out, gaze and wonder between the moon in the sky and the candles in the sand. It's a time to learn what to do, to think, 'next year, we'll do that'. To exchange good wishes, make invitations, accept hospitalities, grow rich by turning neighbours into friends.

'Come with me, to the beach' I said, 'and come to the party. It'll be fun.' When I said it, again and again, smiling, I lied every time. I tried to make my eyes sincere. When that failed, I turned away my head, and held out my hand. 'Come to the beach. It'll be fun.' When my voice wavered and the doubt deepened my tone and clamped down on that terrible final word, I stopped speaking, and held out my hand.

Some lies I can keep up. They sustain me for years. Everything will be alright. This is happiness. There is joy. The five dollar sparkle is real. Other lies let me down, within hours. Or minutes. Some I stare down, repeat them again and again. If I say those lines enough, they will be true. 'Come to the beach. It will be fun.'

This lie is one I can't believe myself. But if I could, I would. I'd have my little girl believe me, then I'd take her sad and lonely little hands to find the beach, the party, the candles, the moonbeams. I'd fill them with happy sounds and laughter. She would stay, light candles, build sandcastles by moonlight, accept help, make friends.

But I know it won't come true. It will be no fun at all. I want to say, 'Everything's making you unhappy.' I don't. That would be the truth. So I say, 'Come with me, to the beach, and see the party. It will be fun. I promise.'

Then the time to talk was gone. The party's now. Shark and Squirrel, tired of the tears and impatient for the moon, had already run along, waving torch-lit paper fish, disappearing down the steps towards the jungly darkness and the moonlit party with its candles, sand, and sea.

Tiger screamed. And screamed. And screamed. I dropped my hand, stopped talking, and left. She came along and trailed behind, carrying little girl sorrow reaching further than all the moonbeams travel from the sky.

When we arrived at the beach, I turned round and left, and came home, leaving the children to a husband. I would have carried all my little girl's sorrows with me if I could. But my little girl stayed, lonely, crying, hating the beach, hating the moon, hating the candles, hating me for all my lies, kicking the foaming sea with the salt spray scattering up all around her, and soaking her through.