Essay: Laughing Buddha

Apr 24, 2020

My mother had a lovely vanity table with a three-way mirror and fancy bottles of perfume and a little dish where she kept her diamond ring.  At the edge of all this elegance stood a small wooden statue of the Laughing Buddha.  



“You’re supposed to rub his tummy for good luck,” she said and picked him up with her long fingers, making circles on the round belly where the dark stain had paled to amber.

Since we were a Christian family, I don’t know how Buddha found his way to my mother’s vanity table, but I can still see his arms flung over his head with delight, the broad grin that invited me to believe in luck, believe in a happy god.

Years later when my mother died, the vanity table disappeared with all its contents.  I didn’t want her perfume or her jewelry, but I wish I had the Laughing Buddha. Wish I could hear her voice, telling me again, “You’re supposed to rub his tummy for good luck.”  And then I would pick him up and polish his belly with my secret hopes.

And I think how strange it is, the things we come to value, the things we wish we had now, that we barely thought of at the time.