February 2015, Chinese New Year
Turq worked hard at weaving himself
back into his family, but sometimes
Ansel could still see the struggle.
During one visit in early February
Dao said, "Would you like to come
celebrate Chinese New Year with us?
We'd love to have you for a visit."
"I'd love to, but ..." Turq's face pinched.
"Me and crowds, a lot of bright lights and
loud noises, maybe not a great idea."
"That's okay, we have a patch
for that," Dao said cheerfully.
"Oh! You still do the headcams?"
Turq said, leaning forward.
"Every year," Dao said.
"Headcams?" Ansel asked.
"I haven't heard this before."
"We try to stay in touch with
our former foster children, and
some of them will probably never
feel comfortable in crowds," Dao said.
"So Mingxia and I wear head cameras
to special occasions so that everyone
can participate from a safe distance."
"Yeah, the first time the family went
to the River City Zoo, I was too scared
and stubborn to go along," said Turq.
"So Dao stayed home with me and we
watched the whole trip on the viewscreen."
"Shall I add you to our broadcast list
for family outings?" Dao asked.
"Yes, please," Turq said. "I'll need
to swing by a craft store to pick up
some Chinese New Year supplies."
"Ask Janie to take you, she knows
where everything is," Ansel suggested.
So later that week, Janie and Turq
went out shopping and came home
with a bag full of paper, stickers,
and metallic red and gold pens.
Turq had started a new scrapbook
to cover his current life. The binder
was blue with a watercolor bird
perched in a tree, and it read
Memories down the spine.
Ansel felt glad that Turq
was finding ways to organize
his trauma-scattered experiences.
The day before the holiday,
a package arrived from River City.
Turq opened it to find a red sweater
with a black square appliquéd on
the front around a Chinese dragon
picked out in gold and white thread.
Along with that came two red envelopes.
"Two?" Turq said curiously. "Usually
Dao and Mingxia combine theirs."
He flipped over the envelopes.
"Oh! One is from Andeana."
"Your older sister, right?" Ansel said,
looking at the colorful package.
"Yeah," Turq said with a smile.
Then he put everything away.
That reminded Ansel that
he and Janie needed to do
some shopping of their own.
On February 19, they gathered
in the living room of Ansel's home.
Turq wore his new dragon sweater
with a pair of black jeans that he had
acquired from somewhere, while
Ansel and Janie wore red plaid.
Janie unpacked a few festive items.
"We tried not to go hog-wild," she said,
"but we wanted to make this feel like
a special occasion for the family."
Ansel hung paper firecrackers
on either side of the viewscreen.
"We got a packet of real ones, too,
in case you feel like lighting a few,
but they're singles instead of strings."
"Now for the goodies," Janie said,
and gave Turq a handful of coins.
"The solid ones are chocolate.
The ones with a hole in the middle
are brass. Don't mix them up."
Turq giggled as he picked off
the gold foil from a chocolate coin
and ate it. "Thanks," he said.
"Also, don't spoil your supper,
because we bought a Family Feast
from the Buddha's Kitchen," said Janie.
Ansel passed Turq a red envelope.
"I know we're not married, but Janie
and I wanted to share this too."
"Aww," Turq said, hugging them both.
"Gōngxǐ fācái. Happiness and prosperity."
"It's almost time for the parade,"
Ansel said. "Let's see whether
your family is broadcasting yet."
He checked, but they weren't.
Turq set out his scrapbooking supplies
on the rug. He had one page that read,
Happy Chinese New Year 2015 with
a ram's head in the center, other pages
in plain red, and two packets of stickers.
"The rule is, I can use any of the stickers
that show things I see in the video," he said.
"It's kind of like playing bingo. It helps me
to remember what I did for this holiday."
Ansel recalled that Turq had trouble
remembering things from his childhood.
"That sounds like a good idea," he said.
"You already got red envelopes and coins,"
Janie said, pointing to those stickers.
"Yeah, and a dragon on my shirt,"
Turq said as he peeled them off
the backing paper and stuck them
onto a scrapbook page. He titled
each sticker in gold ink. "I can
journal around these afterward."
"Just stickers and writing?"
Janie asked, watching him work.
"Hopefully I can add photos later,
if anyone takes snapshots," Turq said.
Ansel got up and fetched his camera,
then balanced it on the viewscreen
and set the timer. "Come here, and
we'll get a picture of all three of us
to send to your family," he said.
They squeezed together
just as the flash went off.
Ansel was sending that when
the alert sounded for the parade,
and then the viewscreen came on.
There were actually three channels
to choose from, he realized, or they
could split the screen, which they did.
"It looks like Andeana is
wearing a headcam too," he said.
"Yay," Turq said softly as he
watched his family fill the screen.
Dao and Mingxia looked happy.
Andeana had a Street Nurse armband
showing that she was on first aid duty.
Mingxia had Zaire on her back
in a toddler sling, because he was
much better at getting into small spaces
than getting back out of them again.
His dark fingers sometimes covered
the camera, while his brother Zachariah
clung to the side of Mingxia's skirt.
The two "homemade" kids,
Baozhai and Chung, stuck
close to their father.
Gwenllian, who was older,
drifted along beside them,
her fair coloring a stark contrast
to the gaggle of darker children.
Zaire squealed with toddler glee
and pointed. The view tilted up
as Mingxia followed his finger.
"Chinese lanterns," Turq said,
and added that sticker to his page.
A pop-up window at the bottom
of the viewscreen announced that
snapshots were in the family folder.
"Shall I start those printing?" Ansel said.
"Yes, please," Turq replied. "I got
some photo corners earlier." He
shuffled through his supplies,
revealing a package of them.
Ansel sent the command to
the printer in his office downstairs.
Turq peeled another coin and ate it,
then spit out a piece of foil that
he had missed because all of
his attention was on the screen.
"What's the fish for?" Janie asked,
pointing to a colorful paper construct
that flapped in the brisk winter wind.
"Lucky carp," Turq said. "I think
I have a sticker of it somewhere, thanks."
He found one and moved it into place.
Ansel got up and went downstairs
to retrieve the pictures. By then,
more image files had arrived, so
he took the first batch of photos
and set the others to print.
He went back upstairs and said,
"Get started with these. There are
more printing as we speak."
"Wonderful, thanks," said Turq
as he took the stack of pictures.
Mostly they showed the kids,
but there were several of the adults,
some long views of the street, and
close-ups of the holiday decorations.
Turq found some snapshots that matched
things he had already seen and stickered.
He began placing those on his pages,
marking each with a title and time.
"Look, everyone, here comes Mr. Wu!"
Dao's voice rose above the crowd noise.
"Who's Mr. Wu?" Ansel wondered.
"He's one of our neighbors in
River City," Turq said. "Mr. Wu
runs the Chinese supermarket and
he leads the dragon each year.
Everyone respects him."
An old man came dancing
along the street, carrying a pole
with a golden ball on the end.
Behind him came the dragon,
its head bobbing and weaving
as it followed the path of the ball.
Ansel realized that Mr. Wu was not
just waving the ball randomly around,
but instead was using it as skillfully as
a conductor's wand to choreograph
the dance of the dragon.
It was an impressive feat.
Drummers marched alongside,
giving the dancers a beat. Ansel
saw Gwenllian swaying in place.
"See, the dragon is chasing
the Pearl of Wisdom," Turq said.
Oh, so that's what it was.
The dragon swished and swirled
across the street, then slithered
out of view around a corner.
Behind it, the parade continued
with a gorgeous golden Buddha float
and then a flatbed trailer full of
Falun Gong dancers.
"Wow, they're moving
some serious chi," said Turq.
"You can tell that just from looking
at their arms?" Ansel said as he
watched their graceful display.
"No, from looking at the crowd,"
said Turq. "See how they move
in response to the dance? I bet
that most of them don't even
realize that they're doing it."
Ansel watched, and it was like
seeing sunflowers turn
to follow the sun.
Mingxia lifted her arms
in the same style, and
Andeana copied her.
Ansel was pretty sure that
the performers bowed to them
and it probably hadn't been
planned in advance.
After the floats marched people
carrying banners to advertise
local businesses or organizations.
Firecrackers snapped and
popped in the distance.
"Gay pride," Janie said,
pointing out a rainbow banner.
"Drat, I don't have a sticker
for that, or the Buddha either,"
Turq said, stirring his supplies.
"You can always take notes
on what you saw, then find
more stickers later," Janie said.
"Yeah, that works," Turq agreed,
and scribbled on a scrap of paper.
"I saw a set of Buddhist stickers
when we were in the store, and
lots of packets have rainbows."
Suddenly the viewscreen
devolved into a flurry of swirls.
It took a moment for Ansel
to recognize that Baozhai
had darted into the street after
some trinket thrown from a float,
and all the adults had chased her.
The little girl reappeared
firmly on her father's shoulders,
and everyone returned to the sidewalk.
Andeana pulled out her first aid kit
to address Baozhai's scraped knee.
"Somebody always gets loose and
makes mischief," Turq said with
a wry smile. "Used to be me."
Presently the parade wound down,
and the Liáng family waved goodbye.
Turq looked a little frazzled, but happy.
"How are you doing?" Ansel asked him
as they turned off the viewscreen.
"Mostly okay, I think," said Turq.
"Could we go outside and light
the firecrackers? I should have
just enough energy for that."
So they all trooped outside, where
Janie took pictures while Ansel lit
firecrackers one at a time, tossing
them into the firepit until Turq
said that he'd had enough.
By then it was getting dark.
"Supper time," Janie said,
shooing everyone upstairs.
They brought out the Family Feast
which contained an assortment of
traditional New Year dishes, and
took snapshots of that too.
"We got the vegetarian option,"
Ansel said. "I wasn't sure if you
would observe that or not, but
you like Buddhism, so we thought
it was better to be safe than sorry."
"Vegetarian is fine," Turq said.
"I don't obsess over it, but it is
auspicious for the New Year."
The main dishes consisted of
dumplings, longevity noodles,
and spring rolls in various flavors.
Those were nice, but Ansel's favorites
were the glutinous rice cake and
the sweet rice balls for dessert.
There was also a basket of
mandarin oranges, pomelos, and
some weird-looking thing that
Turq called Buddha's hand.
Ansel watched Turq cupping it
in his palms, stroking the fingers
and looking rather pensive.
"How are you doing?" Ansel said.
"I feel like this fruit," Turq said.
"It smells like lemon, but it isn't,
and it's all twisted around."
"Okay, and how does that
relate to you?" Ansel asked.
"It's hard, sometimes, making
the pieces fit together," Turq said.
"I'm Chinese-American, because
I was born American and my family
is Chinese, but I don't look the way
everyone expects when I call myself that."
"Labels can be difficult," Ansel agreed.
"I don't want just a label," Turq said softly,
looking down at his hands. "I want a name."
"Still thinking about that adoption offer?"
Ansel said. "Your parents are good people."
"Yeah," Turq said. "I don't think that
I'm anywhere near ready for this,
but ... I still want it."
"Then you'll get there," Janie said,
patting him on the shoulder.
"We have faith in you."
"That's what the New Year
is all about," Ansel added.
"You said it yourself earlier,
Turq: happiness and prosperity."
"Yeah," Turq said. "Happy New Year."
* * *
Andeana Juarez -- She has tinted skin and black eyes. Her black hair looks almost straight when long, because the weight stretches out the waves; but when short it curls more. Separated from a neglectful birth family, Andeana grew up in foster care. She was around 16 years old when she lived with the Liáng family and is now 23. She developed a patchy understanding of Spanish because some foster families used it as a home language and others did not. That frustrated her, so she took Spanish classes in high school and college. The education helped, but Andeana still feels conflicted about culture. She's perfectly comfortable with her modest grasp of Chinese culture, though, something she has maintained since her time with the Liáng family. After she turned 18, Andeana began searching for the Liángs and found them during her undergraduate studies. She didn't want to transfer then, but did move back to River City for graduate work. They have backdated her adoption to her time with them.
Andeana's specialty is medical education, identifying best practices and teaching those to patients and providers. Her particular interests involve lowering barriers for poor, ethnic, and otherwise disadvantaged populations so as to improve their access to health care. So far she has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Southeast Missouri State University at Cape Girardeau, Missouri with a minor in Family Dynamics; Trauma Studies Certificate from University of Missouri St. Louis; and Master of Science in Nurse Educator from University of Missouri St. Louis with a minor in Hispanic Studies. After completing her BSN, Andeana took a summer intensive, earned her TSC, and then started her MSN in fall. She is currently working on a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing with a minor in Photographic Studies from University of Missouri St. Louis.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Hispanic Studies, Expert (+4) Nurse Educator, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Family Dynamics, Good (+2) Sensitivity, Good (+2) Trauma-Informed Care
Poor (-2) Still Struggling with Cultural Identity
Gwenllian Ellis Liáng -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and long wavy blonde hair. She used to live by the ocean, and then her parents moved to River City, where they lived on the riverbank. After they died in a boating accident, Gwenllian was passed around through several foster families before reaching the Liángs, who adopted her. She is 11 years old when Turq rejoins the family. Making things from beach glass, driftwood, seashells, and other flotsam helps her remember her first family. Her favorite color is pink. She is adamant that her name is Gwenllian -- not Gwen, Gwennie, Guinevere, or anything else.
Qualities: Good (+2) Beach Crafts, Good (+2) Girl Stuff, Good (+2) Graceful
Poor (-2) My Name Is Gwenllian
Baozhai Liáng -- She has golden skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and straight brown hair to her shoulders. She is the daughter of Dao and Mingxia Liáng, younger sister of Andeana Juarez, Gwenllian Ellis Liáng, older sister of Chung Liáng, and older foster sister of Zachariah and Zaire Ross. She is 7 years old when Turq rejoins the family. Her favorite color is blue. Active and curious, Baozhai does well with large-body movements but less so with manual dexterity; she doesn't really have the patience or finesse for writing yet.
Qualities: Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Playful
Poor (-2) Penmanship
Chung Liáng -- He has golden skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and straight brown hair buzzed short. He is the son of Dao and Mingxia Liáng, younger brother of Andeana Juarez, Gwenllian Ellis Liáng, Baozhai Liáng, and older foster brother of Zachariah and Zaire Ross. He is 5 years old when Turq rejoins the family. Chung enjoys reading and learning things. He has good balance on the playground, but can't move quickly.
Qualities: Good (+2) Balance, Good (+2) Studious
Poor (-2) Speed
Zaire Ross -- He has toffee skin, brown eyes, and short nappy brown hair shaved into a crest. He is the foster son of Dao and Mingxia Liáng, younger foster brother of Andeana Juarez, Gwenllian Ellis Liáng, Baozhai Liáng, Chung Liáng, and younger brother of Zaire Ross. He is 2 years old when Turq rejoins the family. Zaire is great at getting into small spaces, but terrible at getting back out again, so for this reason Mingxia often keeps him in a toddler sling. He loves being worn because it gives him a higher vantage point.
Qualities: Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Wriggling into Small Spaces
Poor (-2) Getting Back Out of Small Spaces
Zachariah Ross -- He has toffee skin, brown eyes, and short nappy brown hair shaved into a crest with designs along the sides of his head. He is the foster son of Dao and Mingxia Liáng, younger foster brother of Andeana Juarez, Gwenllian Ellis Liáng, Baozhai Liáng, Chung Liáng, and older brother of Zaire Ross. He is 3 years old when Turq rejoins the family. Zachariah is protective of his little brother and always watches out for him.
Qualities: Good (+2) Energetic, Good (+2) Protective
Poor (-2) Sitting Still
* * *
恭喜发财 Gōngxǐ fācái
Happiness and prosperity (use this when receiving gifts or lucky money)
-- Chinese New Year Greetings
This is the home of Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) which used to be part of a resort alongside a lake. When the resort closed, the rental cabins were parceled into individual lots and sold, while some of the resort's main facilities -- such as the lodge and the main boating dock -- were set aside as neighborhood resources. See the exterior, lower level floor plan, and main level floor plan. The living room looks something like this.
Chinese New Year is a holiday which follows the Chinese calendar. In 2015, it began on February 19.
This is Turq's new Memories book.
Memory and trauma have complex connections. Trauma can affect how memories are formed or recalled, and may cause fragmented and incomplete memories. It may also impair the ability to form new memories. Some of the effects are discernible as physical brain damage.
See Turq's Chinese dragon sweater.
Turq has collected some craft materials for this holiday including a scrapbook holiday page, red and gold stickers, red and gray stickers, and gold photo corners. He also has some plain red scrapbook paper.
Chinese Red Envelope
One tradition for Chinese New Year is that married couples (preferably) and single adults (acceptably) give money in red envelopes to younger family members. Employers may also do this for their employees. Traditionally these are filled with new bills in even numbers, and are not to be opened immediately. Terramagne-America often uses cash cards. Because everything for New Year is supposed to be new, those made for this occasion usually have the year and/or Chinese symbols, and unlike most cash cards they cannot be refilled. People often keep them as souvenirs.
Sweets are traditional during Chinese New Year, including chocolate coins covered in gold foil. Note that these are NOT Chanukkah gelt or other coins. They should have some kind of Chinese imagery on them. This batch has a dragon on one side and a good fortune symbol on the other. Sometimes people put these in a red envelope or pouch, but other times just give them out by the handful so kids have something to enjoy immediately.
Ancient Chinese coins often have a square hole in the center, allowing them to be strung on a cord. Everything for the New Year is supposed to be new, so replica coins are often preferred. Janie presents these in an auspicious set of 8. You can tell that the linked package is American, because 4 is inauspicious.
Traditional food for Chinese New Year includes dumplings, longevity noodles, spring rolls, glutinous rice cake, sweet rice balls, mandarin oranges, and pomelos. In T-America, most Chinese restaurants offer some kind of New Year feast to go, either vegetarian (for Buddhists) or omnivore (for everyone else). Ansel and Janie bought a "family feast."
The Dragon Dance is a famous part of Chinese New Year festivities. Customarily the dragon follows a ball representing the Pearl of Wisdom. Read about how it works.
See the Chinese New Year parade Buddha float. This is the Falun Dafa float, and yes, that is a tiny lama sitting in the lotus blossom. Here is the back view of the float. This is the LGBTQ banner.
Paper firecrackers are popular decorations. People light firecrackers or fireworks to scare away evil spirits. They come in singles or strings. Most cities don't want people lighting big fireworks, but small firecrackers are okay. Some cities stage a firework show or light massive chains of firecrackers. See an incredible explosion of a million firecrackers -- awesome to watch, but that much gunpowder is not good for your streets.
Head cameras make it easy to record and broadcast activities. This is enabling for people whose limitations make it hard for them to attend in person.
Buddha's hand is a type of citron. It looks funny, but you can actually do a lot with it. I love making cookies, candy, and syrup.