Articles > Meditations and Musings > The New Big Wong

The New Big Wong

Published by Chapster on 2006/8/12 (3417 reads)
A meditation from the dining room of the Dallas Chinese restaurant, The New Big Wong. Sometimes, our richest stories are born of the simplest encounters.

Greenville Avenue, here in Dallas, plays host to many fine culinary establishments. Most of them are probably a little raucous for my personality. But down at the southern edge of Greenville is a little Chinese restaurant, The New Big Wong. (Yeah, I can almost hear what you're thinking: "How could you eat at a restaurant knowing that it was the Wong thing to do, especially a Big Wong?") It's a quiet little place: No dragons hanging from the ceiling, no trickling fountains burbling as you enter. Mostly, it has only food and several excellent memories to commend it. The former is inexpensive; the latter are priceless.

So it was that about three weeks ago I sat across the table from my son, Justin, at The New Big Wong. At eight, he seems wise beyond his years. His presence always brightens my day. This was one of those special occasions, though he had no idea how special. More about that later...

In our class, The Time of Your Life, we encourage students to FEED themselves with memories of the past. As they begin to talk about their memories, their words begin to slow, they stop looking at us, and they seem to recede back into a time gone by: a father bringing home ice cream for his daughter with a sore throat, a mother coating her son's neck with Vicks Vap-O-Rub, a game of kick-the-can at sunset, a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup. The students seem far removed from our classroom as they listen to others share their memories, the embers of their own recollections stirred in the listening.

Some years ago, probably when I was about ten, my father took me to a karate tournament at the coliseum in Washington, D.C. He rarely took me to sporting events so it was a really big deal. I was amazed by the size of the crowd, the popping of flashbulbs, and the discipline of the contestants. It was fascinating. But I suppose the best part was being beside my dad.

After the tournament was over, near midnight, we headed home. It was cold out and the streets were wet as we drove home. When we neared a shopping center in Arlington, my dad pulled in to the parking lot and drove up to a tiny little Chinese restaurant. He told me that since we hadn't gotten much to eat earlier in the evening, he thought we'd get something here. I remember that meal as one of the best ever. The waiter set before each of us a BIG bowl of noodle soup. It was warm, soothing, and richly simple. Some have called such feasts comfort food. In our assessment, comfort food, soul food, is always tied to memories. This food became comfort food because of its memory.

About ten years ago, this recollection came back to me. Ever since then I have kept my eyes open for this kind of noodle soup. About a month ago, I found it at The New Big Wong. I was excited beyond containment when I read that they had noodle soup, and close to tears when they brought it out.

That is why my son was with me three weeks ago. I hoped to share with him the richness and beauty of a recollection shared with my own father many years before. My son listened with rapt attention as I told the story I tell you now. And with tears in my eyes I tell him, my son, "Justin, I hope that you, too, are lucky enough to be able to sit with a child someday and enjoy these same kinds of feelings."

I am impressed with the idea that our memories are fundamentally our sole true possession. Even folks from the most difficult backgrounds are often able to remember and cherish one or two tender moments of connection. Thanksgiving reminds us of the importance of memory and ritual for soulful living.

As this month celebrates Thanksgiving, our wish for you and yours, is that you might cling to some of those tender memories as though they were life giving. They are. Find ways to memorialize those whom you have lost and love. Find your own bowl of noodle soup and share it, and its memories, with your true family.

God Bless You
Happy Thanksgiving!

By Mike Davis

Originally published in November 1999 for Thanksgiving.

Tags: review   reminescence  

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