Mr. Haiís Garden

Diem-Trang Nguyen

            Mr. Haiís garden was a special place in my neighborhood in Vietnam where I usually went to play with my friends when I was five or six years old.  It was more than fifteen years ago, yet I still remember everything about that garden very clearly.  It was a beautiful garden with many trees and flowers.  Near the gate of the garden, there was a Vietnamese cherry tree.  There were so many cherries on that tree that my friends and I always picked the cherries without  Mr. Hai's permission.  At the top of the tree, there were many ripe cherries, so I often climbed the tree to gather them.  Sitting on the big boughs of that tree, I smelled the scent of white cherry flowers.  From the top of the tree, when I looked down, I felt my body getting bigger and taller.  Between the boughs and leaves of the cherry tree, I heard the wind rustling the leaves and felt it blowing softly on my skin.  One time, when I was trying to gather cherries, I heard a dog barking.  Next to the foot of the tree, I saw the terrifying sight of a big dog barking at me, and I shivered when I heard it growl.  I couldnít call out to anyone, nor could I do anything because I was so scared.  Later, Mr. Hai came outside and took the dog back into his house.  From that time on, I  quit going to Mr. Haiís garden.  I thought that Mr. Hai had let the dog out to scare me, but one day I learned he hadnít.  That was the day that Mrs. Hai came to my house and gave me a big bag filled with cherries and mangoes.  She told me that I could go to their garden to play any day.  They had no kids and loved to watch the kids playing in their garden, so I started going to the garden again. On the right side of the garden, there were some graves of Mr. Haiís ancestors.  Standing near those graves, I felt a really cold air blowing against the back of my neck.  Sometimes, at night, we played a game called ďthe ghost can.Ē  We would choose a can and worship that can as the ghost can.  Some older boys, who were chosen to begin our worship ceremony, would stand in front of the ghost can and demand some chips or fruits.  Then they would burn incense.  After a few minutes, the can would begin moving.  It rolled around the graves and began chasing the children who were playing that game.  If someone was caught by the ďghost,Ē he or she would be knocked down by the ghost can.  Everybody ran and screamed with fright.  After ten minutes, the can stopped moving and the game was over.  I didnít realize at the time that the game was a trick the older boys in my town played on the younger children.  These boys were poor kids, and they played this game with the intention of collecting and eating the food of the small kids like me.  I wasnít angry.  I thought the game was just for fun and we didnít lose too much.  By providing the fruit and chips, we could play that game with great excitement and just a little fright.  I donít know if Mr. Haiís garden is still there or if somebody sold it after Mr. Hai and his wife passed away.  Iím living in the U.S. now, so I canít go to that garden and see what it's like now.  But I will always remember how much fun it was to play in Mr. Haiís garden.