from Wild Thoughts: A Floral Guide to Feeling by Garrett Huon

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It was easy to see who was missing. Just like it was easy to tell how everyone else noticed it too. There was a giant hole in the family portrait, and it seemed to move as the crowd did. In the kitchen. At the table. On the carpet where everyone played poker.

It was a New Year’s party complete with an entire banquet spread out before three lit candles and a bundle of incense. Each family member took a turn lighting one, bowing three times with it clasped between their hands, and sticking it into a bowl of uncooked rice. They were asking Her for a good new year. Saying “hello” and “goodbye.” An hour passed before the last person in the house did their prayer. It took another thirty minutes before the stragglers showed up and did the same.

Then they ate just as loudly and as happily as they ever had. Like nothing had changed.

The adults talked about work and traveling, taking vacations they can’t afford. The kids ran around screaming and yelling and playing games no one really understood. Everyone in between talked about growing up and reminisced about the summers passed here in Her house. They gossiped. They made plans.

Money was burned for Her just like it had been burned for everyone before her. The young kids loved it. They enjoyed the way the fire felt in February, how the paper burst into flames and disappeared. They didn’t understand completely. Not yet.

Each family left when they wanted, when the babies had gotten tired, when the teenagers needed to do homework, when people needed to go to work. They did not talk about Her. They didn’t need to. They returned to their respective lives.