1986 was the year of the tiger. i was nine and still remember a lot from third grade. i was desperate for my brother's breakdancing hand-me-down's and i took a big yellow school bus to and from school everyday that i caught in front of my best friend's house. i was charlie chaplin for halloween and i lived for now and laters, playing outside until it was dark, and the muppet show.
i grew up in berkeley which meant that i got to celebrate every holiday from many of the 400 races attending berkeley unified that could also be found in any given classroom. my brother, four years older than me, had the same teacher when he was in third grade, which made her stock go up considerably.
third grade was the year our entire class pulled our tiny chairs around a tv in the late morning to watch a spaceship take off another coast toward the moon. it burst into flames while still racing through the earth's atmosphere. the ocean swallowed the debris, burying it deep into the very planet we read fairytales at night on. it was the year i grated my finger while demonstrating how to make potato latkes, and when i first remember celebrating a whole new year twice in one month.
"gong hei fat choi!" we said to each other while making banners to stretch across the classroom in bright red paper. we used gold pens to decorate them, and took smaller pieces of red paper and folded fake money into their crease. we dutifully passed them out with wishes for good fortune and happiness in the new year.
i have chinese characters tattooed on my neck and one on my shoulder. at some point i fell in love with the beauty of the language and its storytelling. like a house, each character contains so much. i lived in costa rica after high school on and off until i was twenty. i was back home at one point and it was raining. i emptied out my checking account, quit my job cooking at the cafe, went to the student travel agency before dropping out of school, bought a ticket back to costa rica, took the bus to telegraph ave., and had the chinese characters for, love, strength, and luck, inked into the space on my body between my mind and heart, like an oil drill.
i realize now what i may have loved most, while i have been hovering around the theme of new beginnings, start-overs and the like, it is the duality and ability to press reset so quickly on such a big machine. here we are, knee-deep in january, the year already shaping itself in its predictable and unpredictable ways, and then, just like that, enter the dragon, and we can start all over again. i am a writer because i was born the year of the snake.