7- Nine-Dragon Riverbank

23 Tháng Năm 200712:00 SA(Xem: 8111)
7- Nine-Dragon Riverbank
 

My mother recalls that when I was eight months old she had very little milk, and should have eaten stewed pig feet with papaya to produce more milk to feed me. However, she could not make it, and finally she had to hire a young nanny, a twenty-two year old from Cho Moi who had also given birth to a first child, so that I could share her milk with her own baby. She breastfed me and took care of me for a few months, then she missed her family too much and went back home. My mother had to bottle-feed me with the powdered milk Guigoz, but I did not like it and often cried for breastfeeding. My mother indulged me again with her own milk, besides giving extra hard food. When I was four years old, she applied hot oil on her nipples.  It was too piquant for me and scared me into stopping my demands for breastfeeding.

 

Thus, according to my mother's story, the coquettish girl wearing that nice Western dress and a bow in her hair was still the one who cried for her mother's milk. I did not remember that, and I often teased my second son, Cuong, who liked to bottle-feed every night before going to bed, until the age of four.

 

Our family, like many other well-to-do families, had fled the war and moved to Hoa Hao village to build new homes there.

 

Our house was built on the riverbank, facing Tien Giang river, a large tributary of Mekong river (Cuu Long or Nine-Dragon river ). It is a very large river. On the other side was Tan Hue village, where people planted corn, sugar cane, and tobacco. Next to Tan Hue were Tan Quoi and Tan Long.

 

At dawn, after worshipping, my mother liked to stand by the Heaven's Altar and look at the fishermen on small boats throwing nets over the river surface, with slight waves reflecting the colors of the sunshine; it was so beautiful and peaceful. Some early fishermen might have a good catch and come back to the bank; my mother waited for them to buy fresh fish for a good sour soup or a salty and hot dish.

 

My mother's house was near the house of Duc Ong Huynh Cong Bo who is our Prophet’s father , which they called the Ancestral Temple. Next to it was the house of Grandma Co, my mother's foster-mother, whom the villagers often called Mrs. Nam Co and who lived with Mrs. Sau Nhan, her sister. In May 1991, Aunt Ba Yen, the daughter of Mrs. Sau, sent a letter to my mother announcing Mrs. Sau Nhan ’s death.

 

Grandma Co and Mrs. Sau Nhan were two of the Prophet’s most fervent believers. Grandma Co was very rich: she owned a seafood company in Saigon and managed the finances of the religion. She had a round face, beautiful but grave; her voice was intense and loud, which frightened me a lot. Every time I saw her, I hastily crossed my arms to bow for grandma, and then withdrew. Grandma liked to ask: “My baby, here you are, come here to grandma. Are you hungry?  Grandma will give you some rice noodles.”

 

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