My best friend and his wife have begun to prepare for their baby’s arrival by turning the extra bedroom into his room. They’ve agreed on its design after some deliberation. A safari motif will be featured on the walls and there will be hardwood floors throughout. The hardwood flooring has already been purchased and the wallpaper will be next if a reasonably priced contractor is found. I’m very excited for them and certain that their baby boy will appreciate their design decisions, eventually. You didn’t really start to understand your surroundings until you were able to sit upright.

A house with an extra room for a child is part of the extended American dream, I think. Had I never moved to Asia, buying a house big enough to give everyone their own room would have been important. In fact, I used to own a 3,000+ sf (278+ sm) house that had five bedrooms — four being on the 2nd floor and one in the basement. There was really no reason in hindsight to have had such a big house because it was for only two people. In addition to two empty bedrooms, the living and dining rooms were never furnished as it was mostly vacant.

My ex-wife and I had bought that house together. We weren’t specifically looking for a larger house but there weren’t many choices given our taste. I actually preferred one with single floor and a large, open common room, which could have been possible if we were old enough to live in a retirement community since it wasn’t a popular type of house for younger families in the area. I’m not certain how long I lived there but we sold it a couple years later. As my life had started in Asia by that time, our divorce and the outrageous property taxes, I couldn’t justify keeping it even as an investment. Any price appreciation in the house’s value would have likely been negated, or at least offset, by taxes. Not to mention the constant headache of needing to look after it.

Some odd years later, the thought of owning a big house makes me cringe now. That’s a new development since my preference for a smaller house came about recently. I actually hadn’t put much thought into it until watching Bố già, the limited made-for-YouTube series, on Netflix that Bố già (2021), the movie, was based on. In the former version, a family of four lived in a small Vietnamese apartment no larger than 538 sf (50 sm). I can’t recall where the mother and daughter slept but the father and son shared an inexpensive, unstable black metal-framed bunk bed that was placed against the wall opposite from the front door and adjacent to the kitchen table in the common room. There was virtually no privacy but that didn’t adversely affect their family bond, although it was infuriating at times. And, of course, it resulted in some problems but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. They were intimately involved in each other’s life.

Yes, I understand that Bố già is a TV show, and that family is fictional, but it’s representative of Vietnamese families. Unlike some people that I have known who are not Vietnamese and me, I don’t know of any Vietnamese person on this side of the world or the other who doesn’t have a close relationship to their immediate family at least, despite all of the bad shit that’s happened in their lives because of them. Your mother, included. That degree of loyalty, for better or worse, is admirable.

There isn’t much to like about modern-day Vietnamese culture, in my opinion. Vietnam has been governed by idiots since its reunification, a story for another day. But I appreciate the intimacy of Vietnamese families regardless of whether that’s largely the result of communist brain washing, poverty or the Communist Party of Vietnam’s failure to provide any meaningful financial security to its elderly citizens, especially those that are poor.

If we live in a nice, well-appointed small house in the future, that’s why. Though the likelihood of owning such a property is low because safer communities with better schools in the areas where we might live typically have bigger, more expensive two-story single-family homes.

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