I might have chosen the needle and thread, thereby insuring myself a long if not necessarily happy life, or the bow and arrow, the significance of which seems obvious. My rich aunts had both grabbed rice cakes on their ceremonial turns around the table years before I was born and both had fulfilled their destinies by marrying and outliving wealthy husbands, proving to the world and in particular to my parents how reliable a predictor is the first birthday ceremony. Hadn’t my father’s older brother taken the pencil from his table and become a reluctant but renowned scholar? Some say Dad arranged my table so that only the items he thought would benefit me were within my reach. Most will say nothing at all about who he wanted to benefit, and because it was my first birthday that day he guided me past or toward certain items, I know only what they tell me. Yet I do have a memory, one I cannot summon but which shudders my bones whenever I am at a task and he bends over me, a memory more vibratory than visual. I should have taken up the bow at once and gone to battle. What happened next is legend at the restaurant where my ceremony was held. I climbed onto the table scattering everything; Dad, stretching to retrieve me, toppled the table to the floor and no one could say, based on what I’d touched, whether I would have many descendants or take up a trade. I think they should have learned something when I ended up waving a knife. If Dad were the type to talk to his son, we might share a laugh over his destiny too, but he won’t even tell me what he picked up first, though I can guess.

Copyright © June 01, 2008 David Hodges

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