My Neigbor, a Basket-Carrier Maker

a dying kind of handiwork…NOT my photo…

Memories from the childhood years, translated…

As Mr. Chang moved in next door, I was about four or five, because I’d heard those coming and going out of his home call him “drifting school teacher” in Taiwanese coming and going, I couldn’t help but wondered, could Mr. Chang have gotten so used to drifting, otherwise, how did he get the nickname? But, it’d never occurred to me, to ask my parents about it.

I don’t know what Mr. Chang used to do, just knew, that he’s already retired, kept a few dogs, very good with his hands, he could fix anything from hair dryer, radio, electric fans, bicycles, or anything electric………, and there would be often that people would come to him, to get him to fix something, and, he was glad, to make the extra incomes from it too.

As I grew up, I’d still visited him a lot, I’d especially loved watching him fix things, make things. Once, Mr. Chang was bored, and wanted to make some woodwork to pass his time, he’d dragged home a piece of wood from the old train tracks, started hacking away at it, told me, “This, is cypress, a very good kind of wood, don’t look at how dirty it appears to be, it’s actually quite sturdy inside.” He’d shown me the inside, and the air was, filled with the aromas. I’d asked him, what he was using it for? He’d told me, “Just watch!”

And, two days later, the project was finally, taking form, it was, a “wooden sword”! About 4’5, a little taller than I was. After sanding it down, it’d shown that natural shine and slipperiness, and I’d loved it so. But, Mr. Chang said it wasn’t for a child to play with, but, he couldn’t deal with my begging and pleading, and finally, agreed, to give it to me. Ever since, I’d gone everywhere with that wooden sword, I’d taken it to bed with me, and slept with it too!

In a blink of an eye, forty years flew by, and, Uncle Chang died over thirty years ago too, and yet, that wooden sword looked like, it’d just been, forged from his hands, I’d, kept it, inside my closets.

a disappearing form of art, not my photograph…

I’d recalled after Mr. Chang passed on, I’d asked mom, “Why does everybody call Uncle Chang drifting instructor?” My mother told me, “Because before he’d retired, Uncle Chang worked in the woods, making the basket carriers!” Using the sturdy materials, made them into carriers, to put things or people in, then, hang it up on the railings, to cross the rivers.

So, this, was from the interaction you had with an old neighbor, and, he’d made you a toy, and, you’d kept it, and, you remember the kindness and what you’d learned from the man when you were a young child.


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