Adults had brought chairs and stools out to the front courtyard. Her father called her. She hung her lantern on the clotheslines before approaching her family who had gathered around the table. Her sister brought out a big teapot, pouring tea into cups and handing them around. Lan sat down between her mother and her grandmother. She put her face above her cup, inhaling the fragrance of the lotus flower tea. She had a bite of the mooncake, savouring the salty egg yolk and the sweet lotus seed paste on her tongue. She lay down, putting her head in her mother’s lap, and rested her feet in her grandmother’s. The moon had risen high in the sky, joining a multitude of blinking stars. Her eyes were heavy. Her parents and grandmother reminisced about mid-autumn festivals and harvest time in their home village. Their murmuring voices lulled her to sleep.
Today is the fifteen day of the eighth month of the lunar year.
Lan wonders whether she will see the moon tonight. Here in Canada people call the October full moon the Harvest Moon, but she always calls it the Mid-Autumn Festival Moon, even though there is no festival, and the sky is often covered with clouds at this time of the year. Normally she would go out for supper with her best friend Maggie. Maggie would give her the mooncake that her mother sent from Vancouver, a treat that Lan always looks forward to. But not this year. Streets are deserted, their favourite restaurant is closed for good, falling victim to the pandemic lockdown, and Maggie is in Vancouver with her mother who is gravely ill. She now realizes that she has never shared with Maggie the mid-autumn festivals of her childhood in Vietnam, nor has she ever known how Maggie celebrated hers in Hong Kong.
In the evening, Lan lights a candle and sits quietly reflecting about Mid-Autumn Festivals of years past. She can see her five- or six-year old self, very shy, standing at the gate, watching the lantern parade passing by. Other fragments of her life are playing back in her mind, as if she is peering into a big lantern. A procession of people she loved and lost, or living half the world away, are going around and around, all carrying the gifts of the years.
When she looks up, the full moon is looking back at her from outside her window.