Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Rabbit in the Moon

Grandpa loooved rabbits. It was his zodiac year.

Not the actual animal species, I don't think, but as an icon. His sandals and cell phone charm, for example, sported the Playboy Bunny... (as it was fobby Taiwan, he did not know anything about the Hugh Hefner enterprise behind the symbol).

One year during 中秋節 (mid-Autumn Festival) he taught me to search for the 兔寶寶(bunny rabbit) in the moon. We gazed and gazed at the full and happy moon, from my second-floor window in Warrenville. I just don't see it, Grandpa! But I see you! Like trying to read an ultrasound, or unlearning the viewing of the world through the photo-real lens to reach back into a pre-TV imagination that saw stories connecting the scattered stars... I could not eke out a rabbit in the moon, but was happy to just have Ah-Gong instead, a rabbit in my room.

Grandpa and Grandma had brought from Taiwan more battery-operated lanterns for us than we had hands to carry. They also brought mortars and pestles, wooden and marble, in all different sizes. They explained something about the rabbit in the moon pounding something––rice, maybe? I tried it, and it was harder than churning butter, and far less rewarding. What was the point? I didn't get it, and thought a mortar and pestle were not my toys of choice most days except as percussion instruments, but I did once grind up some chalk in one to make an art project with water and black construction paper. I didn't understand most of what they were trying to impart, I mean, the Autumn moon was lovely, and so was being family with Grandma and Grandpa, and so were lanterns and pomelos and pumpkins and dumplings and taro and duck. The mochi, I loved, but mooncake was sick nasty (aside from the salty egg yolk, round like the moon).

Back then I didn't get it but now I recognize and value: They were giving us tradition. They were giving us stories. Culture. Language. They gave us Taiwan, Japan, their world(s), their time(s),  their war, themselves.

And I am so grateful.


When our family of six traveled by sedan, I would sit in the backseat on Grandma's lap, with Joshua and Grandpa. Look at the moon, Grandpa would say. There was an eyebrow phase, a watermelon rind phase. It's following us! And I would wonder how does it do that...? A pearl in the sky could stalk us all the way home (except for the occasional disappearance behind a tree or building). Obviously, the rabbit inside is running very fast!

My top teeth hang over the bottom row in this problematic overbite that makes it difficult to eat anything off a bone with civility. When my new front teeth came in, they were humongous (baby teeth had been tiny) and didn't grind down... Grandpa liked my bucktoothed smile, when I was still self-conscious about it. Like a bunny! An Easter bunny, my brother would tease.  Grandpa would try to coax my toothy smiles––don't hide those pretty bunny teeth! then pretend to be blinded by two full moons at my grin. To this day, my front teeth are rounded and humongous, :B is an apt emoticon. Thank you for not settling for lippy smiles and polite giggles, Grandpa.

In Christ, this tragic world is an uproarious comedy, and the smiles Grandpa taught me were in their way a passport to the party and the pleasures. Laughter: A gift of sanity! Celebrating the wonderful. Puncturing the true. Illuminating the beautiful.


I set aside an hour and a half today, the mid-Autumn Festival, to write a eulogy for Grandpa, whose cremation and memorial is not until October.

In fits and starts and scribbles, I did manage to get out some words. But didn't get very far. There is so much to say. so. much. I think about John, his highly visual imagination, his word pictures, how he recorded in canonized, forever-words: He did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

And that makes perfect sense to me in this moment.

Jesus must have loved John, so, so much.  so. much. He must have entered John's world, gotten down to John's level, crawled with him, slowed down, dumbed down for him, told repetitive stories, drawn diagrams, taught him how to walk, fall, get back up, bike, fall, get back up, how to love, fall, get back up... sleep, wake, cry, hope, wait, work, live, laugh, rejoice. Jesus must have done so much, together, and been so much, with. There is just so much to say about someone who appears into your world, then stays, just to know you and love you and be with you. One day we'll reach a throne room that I like to think will surround us with these very infinite bookshelves filled with all his doings. We'll know, fully, not secondhandedly from the mansion's massive library (the books will be there just for pure pleasure). Not even like a mirror. We will know. And feel fully known. We will catch up on all the years, every moment that we mourned or missed.


How can I winnow all memory of 阿公 into a publicly digestible, concise platter? I couldn't keep up with my pen. There is so freaking much to say, so many flavors, I don't know how to serve it up in good form. But this at least I've decided:

Going forward, I set apart every Autumn Moon Festival to honor their memory, love their nations. I'll celebrate the harvest. I'll insist on joy. I'll look for the rabbit in the moon. I'll try to love their daughter well and pray for their sons.

Maybe it'll be like today––and include friend, family, and feast. Some good ol' Old Speckled Hen EPA, trespassing (under the fence) at a forest preserve nearby for a spontaneous midnight moonchase hike to the top (thanks for comin' with, Jessica!).

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