Early February. One of the most powerful times of the year in many cultures. It is Imbolc (Celtic spring), Brigit’s Day, Candlemas, Presentation in the Temple, Groundhog Day. (Don’t laugh at that last one, even if it makes you think of Bill Murray. Earth divination is common at this time.) In Asia it is Lunar New Year, which, in Viet Nam, is called Tet.
Last night neighbors came over for conversation, laughter, and turkey chili. The son of the family has lived in Beijing so I was looking at him when I spoke about Lunar New Year and Tet. His father was quiet. “I still get chills when I hear that name,” he said.
I have no access to data on how many people in the United States still carry the burden of memory from the war in Vietnam. My experience over the past year is that whether or not we are willing or able to talk about it, it is most of us. The only measure I have is that universal crowd-sourcing tool, Google. Start to type “Vietnam” into the search field and the first choice that comes up is “Vietnam War.” Start to type in “Tet” and the first choice is “Tet Offensive.”
Last night I looked at my friend and said, “I use that word as often as I can, to ‘defang’ it.”
I learn about Tet customs. I ask my friend at Saigon Kitchen if they are making special foods for Tet. I always include it now in my list of February festivals, all of which are about the promise of new life.
Forty-five years have passed since the Offensive that in some ways, deep in our bodies where we store our experiences, did not end. That’s long enough. Time alone does not heal wounds that are lodged in memory, but those wounds can heal. In the northeast we are buried in a blizzard, but spring has already begun. The days are longer now, the sun a little brighter. It is never too late. The Psalmist says, “Weeping may spend the night but joy comes in the morning.”