Happy New Year, Tiger
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Sure, you could accuse me of being late in line on the New Year’s well wishing. All those lists of the top 100 albums, top 20 books, and top 5 E.E. Cummings impersonations of 2009 have long since passed into the gray age of disinterest, true. I don’t mind if you think the wagon rode right by me, because this is My Year, Baby – and it hasn’t even started yet. You see, I am a Tiger. And, as my husband says, I’m 90% heart. And, as miracles might have it, the Chinese New Year starts on February 14th, that fabled day of love. My big Tiger heart is ready to charge.
According to many a website, these are the characteristics that I share with my Tiger brethren:
Courage, Vehemence, Self-Reliance, Friendliness, Hopefulness, Resilience, Vanity, Disregard
This could all be true, I suppose. I mean, I am always up for a new solo journey into the unknown. Unless you’d like to come – I love a good companion! We can change the world, you and I, no matter what comes our way – we’ll fight it out. I can contribute these talents to our world-saving journey: If I meet opposition, I’ll outsmart it (that’s never much of an issue) and if my enemy is too dense to notice how they are being outwitted, my rather obvious good looks should work as a distraction back-up plan. I mean, have you seen my hair?? On second thought, let’s not even bother fighting through the dullards. I can’t remember a single one of their names.
Teasing aside, I’d like to point out that the standard Tiger vanity is sidestepped by virtue of the year of my birth. Really! I am a Wood Tiger – a mellow version of my feisty sign. (No infidelity jokes here, please. Tiger Woods isn’t even a Tiger, he’s a Rabbit. A Rabbit! Irony, you are the muse that transcends all bad culture.)
THE WOOD TIGER 1914 AND 1974
The Wood Tiger is more adaptable to working with others and therefore does not always demonstrate the typical “take charge” attitude of other Tigers. The Wood element adds stability, giving her warmth of character that draws people in and makes the Tiger a popular person. They are not selfish creatures and will give their time, attention or possessions to anyone in need. These Tigers bring a solid practicality to any problem. They can control their urges to completely take over, letting others do the work. They must be aware of their slightly volatile tempers and short attention spans, and not let those characteristics get the best of them or cause them or their loved ones undue pain.
See? I’m not vain, just popular. BUT WHAT IS THAT BULLSHIT ABOUT A BAD TEMPER? I NEVER EVER RAISE MY VOI….. hey, Kate left chocolate on the counter. I love chocolate, and Kate, too. She is good at sharing. What was I saying?
Oh yes! I would like to dedicate this post to my Grandmother Margret, the lovely lady on the left:
She was my grandfather’s second wife, and the two of them traveled the world extensively in their funky patterned shirts and polyester pants. They lived in Kailua, Hawaii, just close enough to the beach that represents all beaches in my mind. Every day, they would bang a pockmarked old pot lid against the concrete on the back patio and birds would come from miles away for a morning meal. She never had any kids – she might have wanted them, but Grandpa was done by the time they met. They had a great time when his alcoholism wasn’t at its worst, and a bad time when it was. She died when I was seven from a complication in a routine surgery. I remember my parents taking me to the living room and sitting me down in the nubby green chair, explaining that she had died, and that I wouldn’t be going to her funeral.
My memories of her are mercurial – she was a love-by-disappointment kind of a woman, and was always worried that I was spending too much time in the ocean when we went to the beach. She would yell and yell from the shore, and I would duck under the waves, swimming under water for as long as possible before I had to come to the surface and pretend not to hear her once again. I’m sure I drove the poor woman crazy. And I am sure she understood, too, that I was a Tiger, and that all her yelling might never sink in.
I wrote a poem about her many, many years ago – I’m guessing it was written in 1998, the last year of the Tiger. Actually, the poem is about both of us, and about all of us, and about all the unfulfilled parts of our lives that take form like grounded swallows. Some swallows can’t take fly off from a flat surface, but need a boost or a branch to get skyward. Margret wasn’t the most demonstrative of women, but I do believe that she loved me. She told me once that I was good luck, and I like to think that, for those few years that we had together, we were both pretty lucky. If my luck continues, I’ll get to see 4-6 more Tiger years before I die – and I know I’ll be thinking about her on each one.
Kam Hong Woon
For you I was a swimming tiger,
a small pawed cub, ocean going -
webbed with luck to balance
an impossible nature, lashed with tongue
to balance your Chinese love song.
For you I was a bird to call,
your hand banging a pot lid
against the concrete,
seed seeping from your fingers.
I was the swallow, all hover and peck
while you waited to throw
my small body back into the sky.
You watched and tottered,
keeping my blood from
the rum in the cupboards,
from the rum in the flowerpot,
from the rum between the bed
and the baseboard.
Margaret, every song is a love song.
Every bird is beautiful.
Every child is the ghost
of someone you might have loved.
Margaret, I am a ghost of the child
you might of loved, a tiger
you pulled from the ocean, the swallow
that knew your hand to be a chariot.
I am the one who watched you
skim fat from the oxtail soup
as your husband reached for
the cupboard, for the flowerpot, for the bed
and the baseboard beneath it.
I am the ghost who remembers your name,
legs dangling over a green seat,
thinking every chair is a throne
for the ghost of a child.