Just recently in Montreal, I saw a Vietnamese grandmother ask her one- year- old grandson: “Thu’o’ng Bà để dâu?” I can’t translate that phrase, which contains just four words, two of them verbs, to love and to carry . Literally, it means, “Love grandmother carry where?” The child touched his head with his hand. I had completely forgotten that gesture, which I’d performed a thousand times when I was small. I’d forgotten that love comes from the head and not the heart. Of the entire body, only the head matters. Merely touching the head of a Vietnamese person insults not just him but his entire family tree. That is why a shy Vietnamese eight- year- old turned into a raging tiger when his Québécois teammate rubbed the top of his head to congratulate him for catching his first football.
Ru by Kim Thúy