Editor’s Note: This poem was first performed by Malaysian stand-up comedian and poet, Juliana Heng at the International University of Malaya-Wales Slam Off on October 16, 2019. It was extremely moving that we decided to obtain Juliana’s permission to share it with you here. Enjoy!
The reunion dinner
on the eve of Chinese New Year
is a cherished tradition
of every Chinese family.
It could be
a huge gathering
of a few generations
under one roof,
or just an intimate get-together
with a few immediate family members.
I used to have a reunion dinner every year,
with my family of 4 :
Dad, Mum, Younger Brother and Me.
Unfortunately, that stopped 3 years ago,
when I moved out of the home,
after years of enduring
emotional and physical abuse
from my mum and brother.
After I moved out for a few months,
my dad invited me back home
for my first reunion dinner
since the estrangement.
I was delighted!
I missed my family members dearly,
although they have hurt me before.
Few days before the eve of Chinese New Year,
dad called me not to go back
as mum said that she already disowned me,
and don’t want to have anything to do with me,
let alone see me again.
I was stumped and numbed by the news.
I was ready to forgive them and
reconcile with them
in this reunion.
But it’s not going to happen anytime soon…
My dad did not want me
to celebrate Chinese New Year
alone and forlorn…
He decided to break the tradition
by telling my mum and brother
to have their own reunion,
repenting their unforgiving and cold behaviour.
Dad then arranged another reunion dinner.
This time, with my aunt, uncle and cousin.
We had a wonderful reunion dinner
at a seafood restaurant.
We had a heartwarming catch-up,
encouraging each other to be strong
no matter what happens,
because we are a family!
My aunt told me that
although my mum is harsh and cold
with her words,
and may lack affection,
deep down, she loves me,
but clearly not ready to receive me back!
Reunion dinner is never the same
when I am estranged from my closest family members.
Home seems a world apart…
In spite of what has happened,
I still have the fervent hope that
Dad, Mum, Younger Brother and Me,
will sit at the same table,
under one roof,
celebrating our reunion!
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