Here’s a list of some of my mom’s superstitions:
- Our house can’t be facing the main street
- Umbrellas can’t be opened indoors
- Clocks, mirrors and shoes can’t be gifts
- Chopsticks have to be parallel to the table when not eating
- The rules of 風水 (feng shui - wind and water: the harmony of the five elements of nature; certain structure and orientation of a room bring harmony and good fortune to the family) have to be followed in the house
I rolled my eyes the first time my mom told me that a feng shui “master” was coming to rearrange our new house. But, to my surprise, she wasn’t joking because the next day, he did come. He walked around my house, muttering to himself and writing notes down in his little notebook. The next thing I knew, my house was being flipped upside down.
My bed was shifted across the room. My pillow was thrown to the other side of the bed so that my head was closer to the window than my feet when I slept. My book shelves and my desk were dragged around so that they fit his exact calculations. My parents watched and followed him around like obedient puppies, while my brother and I sat in the living room and laughed.
I mean, who would believe that the position of furniture in the house would determine the harmony and prosperity of the family?
I didn’t...at least not until the turkeys came.
Yes, real, live turkeys appeared in my yard — about 20 or so walking in somewhat of a line and marching around the house. I almost peed my pants the first time I saw them.They came from the mountains behind my house, eating fruits from the trees in our backyard. My first instinct was to kill them, but it was against the law to decapitate wild animals, so all I wanted to do was shoot them using my brother’s nerf guns. Sadly, that didn’t happen either.
Unfortunately, my room faces the front yard and I have two skylights above my desk. Usually, it’s a great addition, but on that one morning, I regretted ever deeming this room mine. I guess my background on birds is very shallow, so I didn’t know that turkeys could fly. At least up on my roof.
That morning, I woke up to 10 turkeys stomping and screeching on the roof, their claw-like feet on my skylights. First, I screamed. Second, I thanked the feng shui guy who moved my bed across the room so the skylights were not above it. I didn’t know what I would have done if the turkeys were right above my head. (Probably scream even more and have a panic attack.)
And this was when I realized that maybe, just maybe, there was some slight sense in the whole feng shui philosophy. Everything happens for a reason, and every small movement or action will affect everything that happens thereafter.
I started to accept my mother’s weird customs a little more, even though I still grumbled and complained. There’s a miniature temple next to my grandparents’ home in Taiwan, where we always go to pray and light incense whenever we visit. I’ve always hated it because I believed that actually studying for a test was a more effective use of my time to get a good grade than praying to the Earth God. But now, I lower my head and close my eyes to at least seem like I’m communicating with the Earth God.
I still don’t believe that the number four brings impending doom because it sounds like the chinese word “death,” or that eating only one side of a fish on New Years brings fortune to the family. But there’s just some things you can’t explain with science or common sense. Or in my mom’s mind, a lot of things.
Fast forward a few years later, my family bought a new piano. Because of that, my dad and I decided to arrange the living room so that we could fit two pianos and the couches in the space. My mom protested because the sofa would be facing the “wrong” way, according to feng shui. I assured her quite confidently that our house would not dissolve into chaos because of the change. But of course, after two days, there was a storm, and a hole in the roof caused a leak... right onto the new piano.
Did I ever question my mom’s feng shui beliefs again? Definitely not.