The Welcome


Marci dropped her sleeping bag on the kitchen floor. “I was trapped!” she wailed to her mother. “Just trapped. What else could I do?”

“You really had no choice,” said Mother. “Anyway, I agree with Hoa and her parents. If you had Hoa spend the night with you, then you should be willing to spend a night with her.”

“But, Mom,” groaned Marci. “That’s different. They live in a one-bedroom apartment. Hoa, her little sister, and I will be sleeping in the front room. And that’s part of the kitchen!”

Marci didn’t expect an answer. She could hear the car in the driveway and knew Dad was waiting. Sighing, she picked up her sleeping bag. “Well, I guess I have to go. Hoa would be very hurt if I didn’t.”

As Marci entered the apartment where her friend Hoa lived, Hoa’s mother turned from the stove. “We are most glad you came, Marci. We thank you.”

Marci smiled and put her sleeping bag under the kitchen table. Hoa was pouring rice into a pot. “What are you doing,” Marci asked.

“I always fix the rice for dinner,” answered Hoa. A small face peeked from behind her legs. “This is my little sister, Truc.”

Marci knelt down and touched the little girl on the arm. “Hello, Truc,” she said. “I’ve wanted to meet you.”

Truc waved a few fingers at Marci, and Marci reached for her hand.

“She’s cute,” said Marci. “I would baby-sit her any day.”

Hoa’s mother turned around and asked, “What is ‘baby-sit?’”

“I would watch Truc for you,” answered Marci.

The mother smiled. “No need,” she said. “Where I go, Truc goes or Hoa watches her.”

“Vietnamese do not use baby-sitters,” explained Hoa. She winked at Marci. “But you baby-sit me. I always have to ask you what to do.”

Marci laughed. That was true. She had been explaining different things to her new friend for six months now, ever since Hoa had come to her school.

When the father came home, they sat down for dinner. Marci thought it was very quiet, not like dinner at her house. Everyone spoke softly, and Marci could feel her voice become quieter.

“Does your name have a meaning, Marci?” asked Hoa’s father.

“I don’t understand,” said Marci.

“Vietnamese names have another meaning,” explained Hoa. “Mine means flower. Truc means bamboo.”

Marci studied Hoa. She does look like a flower. Marci looked at Truc. She wasn’t sure she resembled bamboo. “I wish my name did have another meaning, but I don’t think the names of many people in the United States do.”

After dinner, Hoa’s mother began cooking again.

“What are you making, Mother?” asked Hoa.

“For Marci I would like to make pho,” she replied. “We will eat it in the morning.”

“Oh, good!” Hoa smiled and turned to Marci. “Pho is like a soup. It is made with beef and egg noodles. You will like it.”

Marci nodded. She was sitting on the floor and Truc was on her lap. Marci looked around the room. There were no toys. A small television set was perched on a low table, but no one seemed interested in turning it on.

“Truc, have you ever heard the story of Peter Rabbit?” asked Marci.

Truc shook her head, and Marci began the story. Then she told her the story of Cinderella. After that, she related some tales about Daniel Boone and Paul Revere. Hoa and her parents listened too. They had never heard the stories either. When Truc fell asleep, Marci looked at her watch. It was ten o’clock! Hoa’s mother took Truc away to get her ready for bed.

Hoa’s father stood up and bowed. “You are most welcome, Marci. We liked the stories. I hope you have a good time here. Goodnight.”

Marci stood up and made a slight bow back to Hoa’s father. “This is one of the best times I have ever had,” she said.

Hoa yawned and brought out a mat to spread on the floor. Marci pulled her sleeping bag from under the table and put it next to Hoa’s mat. After the girls were ready for bed, Marci crawled into her sleeping bag and looked at Hoa. The warm smell of pho filled the room. “Thank you for asking me,” she whispered. “I’m really glad I came.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Lynn Titleman