by Trang Truong
As I look into the night sky, I have no worries on my mind. Ah, Christmas shopping season, I think to myself. The air is crisp and the pavement is glowing like the calm sea at night. We park in the middle of the parking lot so there is just enough distance to walk and get a glimpse at the twinkling night sky. The bright but calm Christmas lights are hung up, making me smile just a little. This night feels perfect; every problem in my eighth grade mind has vanished. Winter break has just started, and I am all smiles.
We talk and laugh like a family for the first time in years. No one is fighting and everyone seems to be in a good mood tonight. This Thursday night is the first night my dad is smiling and peaceful, a sight I have not seen since the day he was diagnosed under the wrath of cancer years ago. All the pain seems to be washed away from the rainstorm that just passed. I think in my mind, Right now my life is perfect. I am blessed with good grades, family, and a roof to live under.
With three layers of socks and thick fuzzy boots on my feet, my feet are still freezing as we walk into the mall. The ornate Christmas decorations warm up my heart, and suddenly my feet aren’t so cold. We all head to Sears so that my dad could refill his debit card. As soon as we walk to the register and do the required deed, we turn into explorers. Together we walk to the tool section of the shop to check out what my dad loved. We talk about all the new types of tools there are, and for once no one is complaining. The conversation flows on the subject of handy tools. Everyone loves tools at that moment because it is my dad’s passion.
Walking out of Sears, we talk about our plans for the future. Nothing is in a rush. We window- shop, careful to not be drawn into anything. I take in the beauty, admiring with young bright eyes. How can this night be so beautiful? Questions start to flood my mind but I snap out of it in efforts to enjoy the moment.
Going into some shops, we look and talk about the new toys that are created today and laugh about the crazy things that toymakers think of. Holding up a remote control airplane, my brother Tuan looks at the outrageous price and places it back down to its display. Tuan says, “They have this same toy at Sam’s Club but for a cheaper cost.” The prices are out of our reach, but we look anyways. I wished for something cool the upcoming Christmas, something that was not expected; I longed for a toy.
As we leave the shops and walk towards the opening door of the plaza mall, I take the people and their gestures. Little kids are crying, in desperation to get a toy they wanted. Couples are everywhere, taking in each other’s company and the Christmas air. I feel at peace knowing that one day, I will have a significant other who I would go on Christmas mall adventures with to take in the beauty of the season. My mind wanders off to a different world. I imagine the day my dad walks me down the aisle to give me away, wondering if it would be perfect like this night. I said a little prayer in my head so that there would be more family nights like this one.
Little did I know that this family night is the last one there’d be. The weekend passed, and so did Monday. On Tuesday, my dad called me to his room in the morning. The words are etched forever in my mind. He said, “I am dying soon.” I told him to not tell me that because it scared me. He collapsed in the bathroom later that Tuesday and we brought him to the emergency room. Little did I know that it would be the last time I talked to him.
The night at the mall was so perfect; how could everything come crumbling so fast in a number of days? That was the moment when every realization hit me. I had never embraced moments with my dad. I always took him for granted, distracted by the actions caused by cancer treatments to enjoy the little moments I had with him.