My Eldest Sister

Growing up in an era of hardship, and this, was the result from the sacrifices that their eldest sister had, made, translated…

“Your eldest aunt came to Pingdong, and yesterday, mommy took her to Tainan to offer the incenses to grandpa and grandma, I saw her, patting their urn, said she’d wanted your grandma and grandpa to feel the temperature from her hands, she’s, really, a wonderful daughter.” I’d left this brief message on my family’s group page, and it’d, moved all the kids.

Awhile ago, my eldest sister who was eight years my senior came south, I’d become, the host, drove her around, to Wanluan to have the pork’s feet, and bought the layered pastries that was so famous from there, along with, other delicacies of the locale, seeing her with her satisfied smile, I’d felt, very well. “The eldest sister was like a mother”, that fitted my eldest sister’s life completely.

illustration from the papers…圖/黃鼻子

After mom married dad, who was the eldest son of his family, she’d had seven daughters consecutively, and, in the era of sexism in the 1950s, my mother felt the pressures from the relatives. Since I could recall, my mother always had bad temper, and, all of us, sisters, just, stayed far out of her way. As my eldest sister started her middle school, commuting to Hsinying from Yenshui, my mother always asked her to make a trip to the shops, to not press the family to pay up what we’d owed the separate shops, and so, my eldest sister made the wish, to help out with the household finances when she was very young.

Right after middle school, she’d not continued her education, left home, and started working, had her share of hardships, only hoping, to help the family pay up the debts that we owed. And, for a long time, all of us, family who are only able to rent the residences, in her hard work, we’d not only paid up all the debts, we’d, accumulated some savings, and bought an apartment up north.

查看來源圖片five sisters, photo from online…

What impressed me the most, was how I’d gotten into the teacher’s college and Tainan All-Girls’ High School, and, probably because I’d read too many romance novels, I’d dreamed about attending the regular high schools, to head off to college, to live a colorful life, and, bugged my parents, to give me my dreams. But, back then, we’d just, made the down payment for our home, with the installments that awaits all of us, although my eldest sister had, promised, she’ll, take care of my tuition, in the end, considering the economics, I’d still, gone to the teacher’s college, that had the scholarship programs. And back then, there were two students from my classes who’d done really well, who’d gotten into the Tainan All-Girl’s High School as secondaries, but didn’t go, because of their family backgrounds, and started working at the factories up north. Thinking about it, how many girls were, slaughtered, during that era in time.

And, of us sisters, my eldest sister was the most petit, when my mother was still alive, she’d told, that because since my eldest sister was in the elementary years, she’d helped carried us all, younger sisters, that’s what, kept her, from growing taller; plus as she was developing, we were, poor, and my parents couldn’t give her the food that helped her grow taller, and it’d, hurt, thinking about that. I’m more than grateful, that we were, lucky enough, to have our eldest sister, who was like, a second mother to us, as siblings.

And so, during that era, everything was hard, and, the eldest children in each families were often, forced to give up their dreams, to help out the families, and this, was exactly what the eldest sister of this family had done, and, her siblings appreciated her for it, now that they’re, older, and understood more about life in general.


The Bond of Siblings, on Filial Relations

How close they’d become, after they’re, older, and they’d still, fought hard as children, translated…

My younger brother called me, to get me to visit my mother’s home, to pick up the month-old celebratory pastries for his granddaughter’s birth, I’d gladly agreed. Thinking of how from before, after he’d gladly, married his daughter off, the very next week, he was diagnosed with cancer, and after the chemotherapy and operations, he’s now, a happy grandfather, his life was like taking a bath in the sauna, hot and cold, all, mixed in together.

Come to think of it, I wasn’t, a fitting eldest sister to him. I’d taken him to act up when we were young children. As I’m already, going to elderly, every time around Mid-Autumn Festival, my mother still repeatedly, mentioned my most embarrassing moments t—every year, my house would make a keg of grape wine, to share it with everybody in the neighborhood around Mid-Autumn Festival the following year. It was the year I was in the fifth grade, my younger brother, the third, on the day when my mother went shopping at the marketplaces, seeing how there are, no adults around, I’d told him to open up the closet, to get the wine kegs out, with the name of “wine-tasting”, but it was, because I was, gluttonous and didn’t care of the consequences. The two of us only thought, that this drink was so aromatic, and so sweet, we’d, drunk it all up, as my mother finished making lunch, she’d found, that we weren’t, quite right, that there was, half a keg of her brewed wine missing. And, the two of us had a serious hangover the entire afternoon, after my father got off work and learned about this, he’d gotten, so furious with us, and, we’d, gotten punished, and, sent to the doorways, to kneel, so the whole neighborhood could see what we’d done. And on the Mid-Autumn Festival, my parents’ dreams of drinking the good wines, all went bust, because of us.

illustration from the papers…圖/蔡侑玲

There was one more time, after the return to the school after the summers, the two of us rode on our bicycles, not wanted to head home yet, we’d ridden past the Tainan Park, and decided to go fishing in the pond. But, what do we have to use as a net? My brother was witty enough, he’d taken out the assignment books and the texts from his back, used his backpack as a net, we’d, had a good day of “fishing together”, and, at the end, we’d still, wanted to take a few fish home with us. As the two of us, fools returned home, the water already, dripped out of the backpack, the fish, almost dead, what was worse, was we’d, forgotten all our assignment books in the park, as my mother went back to the park to search, it was, already gone. Such an awful thing, we’d not had any lunch that day, and, gotten ourselves, a real hard beat down again.

Don’t think that my brother and I are best friends because we never spent time apart, as we got into an argument, we’d, thrown the punches and kicked one another real hard, neither one of us wanted to lose. I’m not as strong as he, couldn’t win in our fights, so, I’d, come up with, alternative ways, to screw him over. Once, it was January, I’d lost the fight, and I got, so angry, I’d gotten a bucket of ice, and while he wasn’t watching, I’d, pour it all into his shirt, he’d hollered out in pain because of the coldness, that taught him, to TRY and mess with me again!

After he married, he’d started in business, but was, never good at it. After he’d, declared bankruptcy in business, he’d started working odds and ends, and, spent all the money he’d earned on the betel nuts and the cigarettes and the wines, making my parents worry over him. In recent years, his children are all grown and started their families and work, his household economics got better, and, time flew by, he’d gotten to the age of being a grandfather now.

Seeing how he’d, shaved his head because of chemo, and how round his body became, with that smile on his face, looking more and more like a cute version of the smiling Buddha, I’d felt glad, that the cancer he had, was gone, and I’d, started, cherishing the times we shared, and, the past when we’d, made trouble for each other and our mother will be saved in my memory forever.

Those were, your, wilder days, and, the two of you, although fought like siblings had, still loved one another deeply, and it didn’t matter how hard you two had fought as young children, the important thing is that you two are, supportive of one another, and very close as aging adults.

From an “Outsider” to Being a Member of His Family

The brickworks, laid by the husband, to make his wife look good in front of his own parents, and the wife is learning the ways of her husband’s home too, and, because the foundation by the husband was lain well, that is why, she’s, getting perfectly along, with her in-laws now, translated…

Back then, as my husband took along his parents to my home to ask my father for my hand, my father who’d, spoiled me like a princess, kept bloating and bragging about how good I was, like I was, out of my husband’s league. During which time, I saw my in-laws who’s not the least bit articulate held their straight faces, but still, smiled courteously.

After I married, my father-in-law treated me, “the Princess” and “daddy’s girl” with great courtesy, never asked me to perform any actions. And, as my husband and I moved out of their house, my father-in-law came by to see our place, and, turned back to my mother-in-law, “Come by to clean up this place for them at another time!”, once I’d gone to my in-laws’ for supper, and, I was slicing up some radish, and accidentally, cut off my nail, and I’d let out a yelp, my father-in-law came, and, I’d gotten my mother-in-law nagged by him, “Just do it yourself, how could she know how to handle these sorts of household chores?”

My mother-in-law treated my father-in-law’s words like they’re, from God, and ever since, she’d treated me with a ton of kindness, never let me into the kitchens to help out with the chores, and had, come to our home from time to time, to clean up after us. And, although I’d felt, blessed by this “gift”, I felt, a bit upset too—I’d felt, that I was, treated like, an outsider, and not a member of my husband’s family.

My husband is the quiet type, rarely talked to his parents, he’d refused, to give them the money he saved up to serve them in person, and I was, the middleman of the deliveries. And, every month as my mother-in-law received the envelope, she’d kept pushing it back into my hands, and thanked us repeatedly, and, through time, this “pushing the envelope” became, a time we’d shared together, and, through our conversations, my mother-in-law learned, that I, who was cherished by my father like a princess, wasn’t locked up in an ivory tower at all, that I was someone with whom she could have great conversations with.

And slowly, anything that’s occurred in my in-laws, I was the very first one my parents-in-law called up, whether it be businesses at the banks, or, needing a replacement of the old appliances, they’d discussed it with me, their daughter-in-law, instead of their own son. And, naturally, I’d loved, being, a “window” for helping my in-laws with the nitty-gritties of their lives, and so, they’d not, seen me, as an outsider anymore!

Once, my husband’s aunt who lived alone, and was under economic duress came to my place to pour her heart out to my mother-in-law, I was using the internet inside the study, and suddenly, I’d heard my mother-in-law stated, “Take these……it’s okay! We have more than enough, my daughter-in-law had given me money to keep……yeah, she’s, truly, wonderful! We have more to talk about than the conversations I’d had with my son!” I’m more than certain, that my mother-in-law who’s a straight shooter, wasn’t saying it because I was in the next room and can hear her.

Perhaps, I have my husband to thank, he’d told my mother-in-law, that I was the one, putting in the money to give to them per month, that he wasn’t the one putting up the money, and, although I’d still not gotten a handle on how to do the household chores well, but I’m noted as a good daughter-in-law in the neighbors’ and the relatives’ minds. Perhaps, I should be grateful, that my husband is very strong and silent, because of his quiet, his cherishing every word that came out of him, I’d become, the family with whom my in-law felt comfortable, telling things to.

So you see, the reason why this mother and daughter-in-law got along quite well is because of the son’s doing. The man had, paved the way for his own wife, to work as a “public relations” between his own wife and his own parents, and, that is a good husband does, being kind to his parents, and at the same time, acting as a bridge between his parents, AND his own wife, after all, the household harmony is the most important thing, when you live in a sort of an extended family like this, isn’t it???



Feeling kinda, nostalgic here, translated…

The heart of the afternoon sun refracting outside my windows, carefully, looking into my house, the light that’s refracted with the corners of my windowsills brought me back to the old days. Lifting my gaze, the familiar sight, pulled my busy steps to a halt—a wheelchair, the final thing that my mother ever used, it’d, accompanied her, until the very end of her life.

Seeing that wheelchair reminded me of my mother again, and, my tears started, flooding me over, it’d, blurred out the skylines, and, the teardrops, collected into a huge drop of water, with the nostalgias, the memories of her, filled in. I’d, stared at the wheelchair, and saw how the years had, turned, with the wheels that kept, cycling. These years, we’d gone all over the places, up the mountains, into the oceans, kilometer after kilometer after kilometer, we’d, journeyed together, gone back to her former home in Marabang Mountain to recall her childhood days, the Sun-Moon Lagoon for that boathouse stay and the cable cart rides, the Dragon-Phoenix Harbor to see the larger ships and the sunset………my mother’s smiles, bloomed in midair.

photo from online…

The wheelchair also, accompanied my mother to the hospitals, in the rain, the wind, or even, as the humidity rose, trip by trip, without any word of complaint, it surely, was, a good helper. Before she had this “assistant”, when she’s injured or ill, and needed to go to the hospital, we’d, lifted her, and, the stresses of caretaking had, slowly, reduced the patient’s dignity. The unfortunate paralysis, and can only lie in bed until she died, such, an awful end! The wheelchairs had, blessed many of whom who were, kept bound by their immobility, the handicapped individuals, with the help from the wheels, slowly moved along, met up with the springtime, sitting on the wheelchairs, allowing the sights to, enrich their brand new lives.

Looking over, the streets, the parks, the hospitals, what sort of a state of mind do the wheelchairs carry? Those who were, still thinking about their younger days, and looking at the photos of their younger selves; or those who had become, dumbfounded, forgotten what year this is. Comparing what’s happening next to the wheelchairs, the colorful people, with their, newly learned Chinese, coloring the faces of those who were, wheelchair bound, trekking down toward the sunsets. And, we’re, no longer, keen on those who were caring for us being our blood, the foreign nurse’s aides and the wheelchairs, became the new scene that’s, hung up, at the turn, over every corner now.

I’d, pushed the handles along slowly, why is it, so heavy? Turns out, it’s, my mother’s, care and concerns for us, and her memories too. The steps she took were, no longer intact, but, the thoughts of missing her so, glistened, in my eyes, the wheelchair carried my mother and the life she had with her family, the laughter, the sorrows too. The setting sun painted that picture of blessing, I’d, cut off that colorful sunset, and, wrapped my love, my wishes in, written down these, words of gratitude, hung them on the back of my mother’s wheelchair, a sort of, a scent of, eternal, nostalgia.

And so, this, is what this woman remembers, as she saw her mother’s wheelchair again, it’d taken her back, to when her mother was still alive, and the memories they shared with one another, will forever, stay fresh in her mind, as the wheelchair will continue, to be a reminder of the interactions they had once shared together.


A Fitting Son, a Story on Marriage

A fitting son, AND a good husband, what, a RARE gem he is! Translated…

That evening after supper, I was doing the dishes, I’d heard my husband on the phones with my mother-in-law, I’d stopped working on the dishes and listened in, “Mother, the weather is still very cold! Did you dress warm enough?”, I couldn’t hear my mother-in-law’s replies, just heard my passed-midlife husband chimed to my mother-in-law happily, “Tell you what, I’ll take you to karaoke on Friday, everybody there all says that I’m a great singer, but you’d never heard me sing, so, on Friday, I will definitely, take my mother there!”

Up to here, I could no longer contain my laughter, I’d not needed to imagine, how radiantly my mother-in-law must be smiling, on the other end of the line already. He’d stated, “Friday will be the Winter Solstice, won’t it? Yeah, fine, I will surely go home to you to have some sticky rice balls before I head off to karaoke! It’s set then! I love you, mom!”, the next second, my husband ran towards me, with his strutting manner, “See, if I want to ‘date’ my mother, I’d needed to make an appointment!” his face was, radiating, like he was, heading over to meet some superstar!

So many years had passed, my six-feet-tall man, no matter when he’d called or received a call from his own mom, he’d always started greeting her respectfully, with, “Mother!”, if it was a phone call, he’d always end it with an, “I love you”. And, being soft-spoken, gentle, that is how my wonderful husband who’d, respected his own mother and loved her dear behaved, toward me too, even as I’d, often “bullied” him with my foul moods, he’d always, apologized first, “Honey, I’m sorry, your husband loves you, oh so much!”, to dissolve my upsets for no reasons at all. Think, having this sort of a man to grow old with, it’s, a kind of bliss, I suppose!

And so, this man respected and loved his own mother very much, and transferred the respect and love he has toward his mother, to his own wife, and, unlike that belief of “a fitting son is not a good husband”, this man, disproved that totally!


Traveling Together, Making Memories

Children are, growing up, so fast now, and before you know it, they don’t need you anymore, and they’d, stopped, wanting you, the parents, to tag along! Translated…

These past couple of years, I kept, wanting to travel with my children again.

When they were younger, every season, we’d find opportunities, to head out together, or to go to the theme parks away from home to visit, or the National Parks, it didn’t matter if the locations were far or near, how long the trips were, or if we’d gone to the theme parks or not, the focus was, in making more memories of the time we spent together as a family.

With their coming of age, their course loads became, heavier, and, there’s, not many chances we get to, head out to travel as a whole family, and slowly, when I’d, invited them along, they’d, had that look of difficulty on their faces, even as I was only asking them to head out for a walk with me. I knew my children loved staying at home, and that there are, many reasons for them to not go out, but, although, I’d, intentionally, ignored, I’d had to admit, “the parents’ dates of expiration had, passed”, they’d started, focusing more on gathering up with their friends.

I understood the minds of teens’ wanting to hang with their friends, looking back at my self, it’d started for me, around this age too, the companions I had shifted from families to friends, then, due to school, work, going abroad, and, I’d, stopped, hanging out with my parents, or siblings, this was, merely, a transition into the adulthood years, nothing more.

But, even so, I’d still hoped, to go out with my children again. After a while, in this desire of mine, I seemed, to have caught a glimpse of my own parents, aren’t they also wondering, when they will be, traveling all around, with their own young once more?

Ahhhhh, I guess, I need to, plan a trip with mom and dad this next time then.

And so, this, is the attitude adjustment of this parent, from when her kids were still younger, to adjusting herself as her kids are, older, and, how the children wanted to, hang with their friends more, than their parents or grandparents, and this reminded the writer, that she may need to, shift her focus, to traveling with her own aging parents, instead of, keeping hoping, that her kids will, travel with her, because the kids are only, growing older by the day, you CANNOT have those innocent children who’d, relied on you 24/7 back again!!!


The New Year’s Eve Meal Served at Midnight

Waiting for everybody to finally be there, then, we start our meals, on New Year’s Eve, as that would be, the TRADITION!!! Translated…

Every New Year’s Eve, I’d always recalled the year I was twenty, how all of us had, finally been, “rounded up” at the dinner tables, sitting together, it was, almost past midnight.

My father died young, leaving my mother, and the five of us. Toward this sudden impact, people had, tried their best, to convince my mother to remarry again, and there were those who’d told my mother, to take my older sister out of school, to get her trained as a stripper, and that she should, give me up for adoption, being the youngest. And, to tell the truth, those “kind” thoughts, my mother would’ve never accepted, she’d rather, STARVE to death.

Thankfully, back then, the government was pushing forth the program of “your living room is your manufacturing plant”. This was, a more than fitting job for my mother, who’d not liked, showing herself in front of others.

illustration from the papers online…圖/豆寶

My mother took the plastic flowers to assemble from the factories, and lay the leaves, the stamens, the buds, and the blooming petals, all out on the living room floor, and the six of us sat on the floor, and we’d become, our own little, production line. I was only eight, and willingly started working, as a “child laborer”, for the sake of all our livelihoods, and to stay together with my loved ones.

After college, I’d tutored during the summers and the winter breaks, or part-timed at the privately owned businesses. In the winter vacation when I was twenty, I’d part-timed at a mid-size shopping mall, that the lady in the children’s department was on maternity leave, and the store needed someone to cover for her while she’s off. So, I took my young looking face, with plain clothes, started working, and, I’d seemed, a bit, awkward, in the midst of those ladies who are made up colorfully.

what the New Year’s Eve meals looked like, photo from online…查看來源圖片with everybody int he family home…

I’d gone to work on time to sort through the deliveries, to neatly stack up the shelves, and, used my own sense of beauty, to put the outfits together from time to time, so the customers won’t have it too hard, finding matching things. And, without that sense of being working a long time, with an extra bit of honesty about me, I’d had, many returned customers. A student who was only stepping in for the formal employee could, keep the business of a department going very well, the owner was so happy, he’d, given me a huge bonus for the sales I’d made.

On New Year’s Eve, the company claimed, that in order to fit to the shopping needs of the customers, they’d kept the stores open until eleven in the evening, and promised, that they would, pull down the door from six to seven-thirty in the evening, so all the employees can have a New Year’s Eve meal. That was the very first time I couldn’t be with my family, and I’d felt, a bit, saddened. While everybody else was enjoying the foods, I’d chosen, to stay at my counter, and missed my family.

After a thirteen-hour shift, I’d finally, walked out of malls. The cold wind greeted me, I was the only one on the streets, and became, extremely, alert. Then suddenly, someone grabbed my hand tightly, and came, “Youngest! Youngest” from behind me.

Turns out, that in order to wait for me, my mother didn’t have any supper, and had my two older sisters to escort me home. I’d started, crying, took my older sister’s hands, and walked swiftly home, to have the meal prepared by my mother with my family.

And this, is what family meant to Chinese people on New Year’s Eve, because during the regular days, we’re all, out and about, busying with our separate lives, and, New Year’s Eve is the time we set aside, to get together with our loved ones, that, is why this is so important.