January 23, 2012, marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year – the year of the Dragon. The Dragon is probably the most auspicious sign in the Chinese zodiac and this coming year is supposed to be one of progress, prosperity, and success. One can only hope.
All I knew of chinoiserie growing up was learned at the House of Chin on Airport Boulevard in Mobile. We would meet up there with the whole McDonald clan for big family dinners.
The House of Chin served exotic sounding dishes like chicken chow mein on silver pedestaled dishes with domed covers. Lord knows it must be exotic if it can only be eaten after it is ceremoniously revealed out from under a silver dome.
I was particularly fond of the big pieces of celery that came in the moo goo gai pan. I wondered why Chinese celery tasted so differently from the celery that we got at the Piggly Wiggly. I was grown when I found out that it wasn’t celery at all, but bok choy.
One time Mama bought me a tiny, red silk lantern. It had a tassel and smelled of lacquer. It hung from a little silk cord. Fancy.
After ordering and prior to egg rolls, it was always big fun for everyone to find their birth year on the menu and read their horoscope aloud. We did it every time. The words never changed. We did it anyway.
Brother is a Dragon, naturally. Mama is a Horse. Daddy is a Rooster.
I happen to have been born in the year of the Rooster, as well. But unlike Daddy, I bear the mark of the Rooster on my left arm – a round, white reminder of a childhood run-in with a mad Rhode Island Red. I came out of the fracas sporting a nice scar on my bicep and a little wary of barnyard fowl. He wound up as Sarah’s Sunday dinner.
I am “a pioneer in spirit…devoted to work and the quest after knowledge. [I am] selfish and eccentric.”
Pioneering. Questing. Devotion. Those are some mighty powerful words for a little chick to read. Would that really be me? It’s funny to want to live up to a prophecy found on a soggy paper placemat, but I did, and still do.
I don’t know about selfish. I probably am to a certain degree, but who isn’t? I am definitely eccentric. No doubt about that. And getting more so every day.
I have come to learn a great deal about Chinese culture as an adult, more than I ever really wanted to. And while I understand that there is infinitely more to the Chinese zodiac than what is written under my egg drop soup, I still read those words every time.
And I am still proud to be a Rooster.