“Write about the lanterns.”
I was 10 years old and my family was in Vietnam for our summer break. During one of our small evening trips, we reached a small village where we walked around and ate dinner in a small stall. While waiting for my dad to finish taking the perfect picture of a Vietnamese market place, my mom was hit with a bolt of inspiration. Every night, people would bring their lanterns, slowly place them in the stream outside the village and watch them float off, only to be found by a lonely fisherman somewhere in the middle of the sea. It was a magical sight. My mind immediately went to my favorite movie, Tangled. I strained my head but couldn’t see a golden-haired girl on a boat anywhere.
“Write about lanterns?”
I was confused why she asked me to write about paper lanterns. A part of me regretted ever telling my parents that I liked to write. Now, they believed that I could create a Shakespearan level sonnet out of anything, nature, imperialism and paper lanterns. I wasn’t an artistic genius, sometimes I thought my talent was a fluke and any minute, someone would pull the wool over their eyes. I wondered how a four line poem about a sunflower led to this.
“Why don’t you write about lanterns?”
She rolled her eyes at the idea. “I’m hopeless at writing, you’re the poet.”
“One poem doesn’t make me a poet, Ma.”
I noticed the slight disappointment in her face. She shrugged off my comment and took out her phone and handed it to me, the brightness turned up to 100 and illuminated my face. “Look around you, there’s so much to see and experience. Better write it down or else you’ll forget.”
Mom pointed to the pink lantern that passed us. It was slowly moving up and down because of the soft waves. It had flowers all over and a bright yellow light from the center. I watched it for a few seconds. It was fascinating how something so little could capture the attention of a hyperactive 10 year old but I couldn’t seem to move away from it. Like the people who had put the lantern down in the water, I felt like I was letting my worries and problems disappear with the movements of the paper lantern. Up and down, side to side, knocked over and pushed back up again. Despite the waves, the lantern pushed through and kept the flame going.
I think I know why my mom wanted me to write about a lantern.