Growing up in a Vietnamese-American household, it seemed like there was a party for every weekend. When I was young, or more accurately younger than I am now, I remember the weekly get-togethers hosted by my family in our two story home. The whole extended family would come to these parties and there would be food, drinks and all my little cousins running around downstairs. Whenever I went downstairs during one of these parties, I was astonished as to how much my home, my safe space, seemed like a whole different place during these parties. The whole atmosphere was different, booming music, dimmed lights, the smell of food and alcohol drifting through the air, and the sticky floor that I walked upon. During these parties this was no longer my home. My home. My safe place. It was of course the same building and the same place with all the same things, but with all the people, and background chatter and karaoke, and the sticky floor that my mother would never allow, this didn’t feel like familiarity.
I come from a big family. My grandfather on my fathers side of the family had 7 children, and each of those children had at least three children each, many of them having much more. One special thing about my family is that years back, when everyone immigrated to America, all of the siblings decided to buy houses in the same neighborhood. This means that I am very interconnected with my cousins because everyone is just a quick walk away. Our parents all worked during the day, so all of us cousins were raised together by our grandparents. The age gap between us all is pretty steep, with the oldest cousin being 29 and the youngest being 8. Because of this, the bonds between us all have sort of weakened, because some of the cousins are caught up in their own lives with work, and some even with children. But on some nights all of this goes away. On nights where there are family gatherings such as holidays or birthday parties, all of the cousins must be at one house, per the request of our parents. At these parties, all of us usually ditch them and go on a bike ride around the neighborhood. These bike rides are magical because when all of us are riding around late at night goofing off, age disappears. Everyone biking is a little kid again, even Becky who is 26 and a Dentist, Chelsea who is 29 and a mom, and Ashley who works in finance. Everyone’s a little kid biking around the block.
When I was younger, I knew a boy named Pat that lived in my neighborhood. Me and Pat were about the same age but went to different schools. Over the years I saw him more and more frequently and would even call us friends. We played outside, as kids do, and he even taught me how to play the card game Yu-Gi-Oh, which I was horrible at. Although we had grown quite close, Pat’s life was still a mystery to me. I knew where he lived in the neighborhood, but I knew nothing about his personal life or family life. Then, I can’t remember when the exact date was, but I never saw Pat again. I thought nothing of it and continued on with my life, but as time went on and years passed, I grew curious. I went to his house and knocked on the door to be greeted by an older vietnamese man, who reeked of cigarettes. I asked the man, “Does Pat still live here?”. To my surprise he said, “No, no one named Pat lives here”. I thought nothing of it and continued on in the monotony of my life back in middle school. Oddly enough, months later I saw Pat enter that house. To this day I still don’t know what happened with Pat. Maybe we weren’t as close as I thought we were, maybe he just moved out and forgot to tell me. Pat taught me that although we may be kind to the people we live next to, we’re not friends, we aren’t close or someone to confide in, we are just… neighbors. And that although we may have a small glimpse in through the neighbor, their home is still it’s own story, like a closed book that we can see the cover too, without any clue of the rich background and story flowing through its pages.
It was the first day of Winter break. I had woken up at 2 p.m, fully taking the advantage of having all the time in the world to catch up on sleep. The house felt different when I woke up. The past week leading up to this day was filled with gloomy gray skies, and little droplets of rain every day, like soldiers marching on a battlefield. However, this day, the sky was a brilliant blue, and the sky above me was filled with beautiful glowing sunlight, and the occasional cloud. This sunlight was so spectacular that it creeped into the windows of my house illuminating it with a golden hue. I walked out of my room to the empty house. There was a silence I wasn’t used to, being raised in a family of 6. There was a dream-like quality to the day that is hard to describe in words. I walked downstairs to see my dog, tail wagging, waiting by the door for me to take her on a walk. I thought, “What a beautiful day? Who wouldn’t want to go on a walk”. I walked outside and basked in the glory of the sun. The air was fresh, the trees greener than ever, as the sun smiled happily upon us. I walked around my neighborhood the usual route, but was sidetracked by something magnificent. A beautiful Monarch Butterfly, fluttering its wings by a bush drinking its nectar. I stopped in my tracks. And did something I don’t often do, I stayed there still in the neighborhood for about 15 minutes, just admiring the butterfly. It flew around me, landing on a nearby bush, as if it were tempting me to come closer. I did, and eventually found myself staring at its intricate wings, and beautiful white spots. It flew with such grace and elegance, as its wings bloomed like the flowers of the coming spring. Eventually it fluttered away. But a part of the butterfly stuck with me for a long time. That feeling of beauty, and more importantly freedom.
Summerwood Street is a part of me. It always will be. The experiences that I have gone through – no what I am growing through have shaped me – no are shaping me into the person I will be in the future. Though not all of the experiences were good, hell, some of them were even horrible, Summerwood will still always be a part of me. To all of my neighbors and family that molded my character into who I am today, to all of the events that struck me, like a hammer to a blade being forged. I am Summerwood Street. I am my mother, my father, my sisters, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my grandmother. I am the fireworks lit on the Fourth of July, I am the smiles of my family as we enjoy our company, I am the tears cried in my room. Summerwood Street is the crucible in which I was formed, and I will never forget that.