The youth-written stories in YCteen give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Moonlit Memories
Chun Lar Tom
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One evening, back in China, my little sister Bik Bik and I sat in front of our house to wait for the moon. An hour later, the moon rose. The village became beautiful and charming in the softness of the moonlight.

“Let’s go and tell Mom to get ready for the Moon Festival celebration!” Bik Bik yelled and ran into the house.

Moon Festival is also called Mid-Autumn Day (Zhong Qiu Jie). It’s usually held at night during a full moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. That night, the moon’s believed to be at its brightest and roundest for the year. In China, people consider this the best time to celebrate the end of the harvest season with a big feast.

That evening, Bik Bik and I helped Mom set up a table in the open air near our house, like the rest of the people in our village. We ate dishes like chicken and river snails with red pepper. After dinner, Father set off firecrackers and burned incense to welcome the goddess of the moon—the Moon Lady.

Then we ate mooncakes, the most important food served because they symbolize the festival. Like its name implies, mooncakes are usually round like the moon. They’re served as dessert at the celebration.

To me, mooncakes also symbolized family unity and perfection. Every year at the Moon Festival, my aunts, uncles and cousins who worked and lived miles away in the city of KaiPing would come to my village of Maoping with delicious mooncakes.

I could never forget the whole family sitting at the table, eating mooncakes, chatting, and laughing in the soft moonlight. It was a feeling of reunion, harmonious and joyful.

Loud Laughs and Shining Eyes

Aunt Mei laughed loudest at the table. She was a kind and happy person with a big smile on her face all the time. And cute, fat Uncle Qiang was my favorite uncle. His big eyes shined on his round face as he told us about the circus he saw in the city.

Then there was my cousin Yi, a sweet and quiet girl who followed me everywhere during the festival. When she smiled, two dimples lit up her ruddy oval face.

Our grandparents had told us that the Moon Lady was supposed to come down to Earth and eat the mooncakes that people prepared for her.

image by Cezary La Docha

“Mom, how do you know the Moon Lady came down and ate the mooncakes already?” Bik Bik asked as we ate dessert. “We still have the same number of mooncakes.”

“I just know it,” Mom replied. Mom told us stories about the Moon Lady as well and taught us folk songs to invite her. And Grandma showed us how to make wishes to the Moon Lady. Bik Bik and I were always running around during the festival, humming songs, eating our mooncakes.

My memories of the Moon Festival are some of the warmest memories I have of my family. But things changed after I came to America when I was 15.

My family members and I are no longer able to get together. My aged grandparents, Aunt Mei, and Uncle Qiang are all back in China.

When the night of the Moon Festival came during my first year in America, I missed them so much, especially my grandparents, because it used to be the night for our family reunion.

My family here can’t celebrate the Moon Festival the way we used to. We can’t set up a table in the open air like we did in Maoping, watching the moon as we ate mooncakes. And now, for dinner on the day of the festival, Mom cooks shrimp instead of river snails because that’s what’s available.

We still eat mooncakes on the night of the festival. But for me, after losing my traditions, mooncakes can’t symbolize family unity any more. When I look at the designs on its skin—which looked beautiful back in Maoping—they seem like little cracks that’ll split the cake apart.

A Wish to the Moon

The mooncakes’ roundness reminds me that my family isn’t round and whole anymore. During the last mooncake celebration I had with my family in Brooklyn, I looked up into the dark blue sky, mooncake in hand.

The moon didn’t look as bright and round as it did in China. Taking a small bite of the mooncake, I heard my grandmom’s soft voice coming from overseas.

“Chun Lar, make your wish to the Moon Lady. It will come true.”

I stared at the moon and made my wish: “I wish my family would be reunited for the next Moon Festival.”

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(NYC-2002-11-28a)

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