The Era Back When We Brought the Lunches from Home

Memories of our younger school days during the lunch hours, those, WERE the good ol’ days, that’s for sure!!! Translated…

Before the nutritious lunches were provided by the schools, bringing our lunches from home was the norm. Every morning, other than our heavy backpacks, we’d also needed to take that extra packed lunch box. And because what was packed in the lunches, were usually leftovers from the night before, there’s, naturally, that lack of expectation for us.

here’s a sample of what the lunches from home looked like, photo from online…

And, although we’d lacked that sense of expectation for lunch, but, if we’d forgotten to bring our boxed up lunches, we’d be in trouble. Because we’d wanted some extra time to sleep, we’d often forgotten, the important thing (our stomach’s needs) by the entry of our houses or just, left them on the dinner tables, and if we’d not asked our parents to bring it to us, then, we had to, wait until lunchtime, and go to the school shop to buy the breads and the milk. But, I had an alternative way: with a pair of chopsticks in hand, and, go from classmate to classmate to see what they have for lunch, “reviewing” over the foods that my classmates’ parents packed, and do a “gourmet review” at the same time. We’d all great friends, and my classmates never minded, and they’d enjoyed, sharing their lunches with me too.

On my last year of middle school, I’d had my growth spurt and had an increased appetite, and my originally just ONE lunch box became too, and, “In the bigger lunch box, rice, the small one, the vegetables and meats”, became how my classmates made fun of me then.

and now, here are the school lunches provided at school now…photo also from online…

So, there’s, a LOT of memories, from your younger years of packing those lunches you steamed in your classrooms, and, back then, the students were very connected, because they’re one another’s friends in class, that is why there’s this, sort of an intimacy, closeness that they’d shared with each other.

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The Taste of Happiness on Thursdays

Hey, save some leftovers for me, will ya??? Translated…

Thursdays are our “family nights”, primarily because my younger brother who’s a pediatrician has a day off, and we can all gather around our parents’ to share some happy times.

My youngest brother who works for a Japanese company, because of how busy his work is, he’d skipped from time to time, and my mother would pack up the leftovers for lunch, then, give it to my younger sister-in-law and my nephew to take it home to him; so the family members missing out, can also have a taste of mom’s love, and the warmth from the family.

On a certain Thursday, I’d needed to work overtime at school, something came up suddenly. As I got home, my son who’d just had supper at his grandparents’ gladly handed me a still warm lunch box, half-jokingly, he’d told me, “this is our left over, saved for you!”, I didn’t believe it. Look, a prawn, three pieces of stewed beef, broccoli with corn, and my favorite, okra. My regrets of not making it home for the gathering meals, suddenly, wiped completely away, by this lunch box, packed with a ton of love.

meal on the table 的圖片結果let’s all sit down for this well-prepared meal here…not my photo…

So, this, is how this family show the love, by sharing the homecooked meals, and, whenever one member can’t make it home, the other members would save some for the individual who’d, skipped out on the meals, and that, is the act of love, that’s experienced by the man who’s a part of this family.

The Guerilla Warfare of the Traditional Chinese Buns

To satisfy his own father’s taste buds’ needs, translated…

Dad is NO gourmet expert, but he is, a picky eater. His home was back in Yangzhong, Jiangsu, on the Yangtze River, right in the middle of the Yangtze River; people said, that those who live in the northern side of the river loved foods made with flour, those living in the south loved rice, my father, being right in the middle, enjoyed both.

Of the flour made foods, my father especially loved the plain buns, preferring the plain, unsweetened, handmade Chinese traditional buns. My mother was born in Taiwan, cooking the rice, the noodles were, no problem for her, but she can’t make the buns, and so, my father can only, “seek elsewhere”, whenever someone said that there are delicious handmade buns, no matter how far away, he’d made the trips, he’d trekked all over Younghe, Muzha, and Hsintien. And yet, there are, only, the limited few that managed to make their ways into his mouth, and as he’d bumped into the buns that were tasty, he’d definitely buy them in bulk, and would start eating on the drive home.老爸不是美食家,卻十分挑食。他的老家在江蘇揚中,顧名思義就是揚子江,也就是長江的...illustration from the papers online…

There’s the common thread of all the shops that he’d bought the buns from, the owners were all elderly folks, and would take days off because of their health, and, ended up, going out of business, because there are no younger generations who are willing to, carry on the skill sets. And so, these years, my father became like a guerrilla war fighter, looking for the shops that made the buns that fitted to his taste buds.

One Sunday morn as he went out on his exercises, I’d found a van parked, by the side of a nearby elementary school, with a long line by it, those standing in line were ALL elderly folks, and, it’d carried my father’s favorite, plain buns. After I’d talked to the neighbors, I’d learned, that the owner would show up on Sunday mornings, but because the supply couldn’t match the demands, those who got there late normally went home emptyhanded. The very next week, I got up real early, went there, and, holy, there were, over a dozen people standing before me in the line already! Thankfully, they’d only bought a few, when it came my turn, there are, still some left. In the end, I went home with ten plain Chinese traditional buns, then, I’d, driven them to my dad.

He’d steamed one up that very evening, and said it was cheap and tasty, and ever since, standing in line once every other week became my way of showing him my love. With the weather getting warmer, I’d driven instead of walked to the cart, and one day, I’d received a ticket for parking on the red lines, and, the buns for that day was, super expensive, after I’d calculated in the fines.

Here’s that freshly steamed buns, photo from online…查看來源圖片here’s half a dozen…

One day as I drove past Jingshan S. Road, saw a sign with “Handmade Buns”. I’d searched the shop’s name online as I got home, and learned that the shop owner of this place also produced handmade buns, although it’s, a bit pricy, but the good thing is that it has longer hours, I can go there anytime. The very next day, I’d brought some to dad, and he’d nodded in approval, and I’m more than glad, that in this guerrilla warfare with the Chinese traditional buns, I temporarily, won!

So, this, is the act of love this individual showed to his own father, he knew that his father loved this food, and, found a shop that provided it, and, he’d, gotten his father’s approval for this brand new place that made these traditional Chinese buns.

My Grandmother’s Tears

The strengths of a mother, in the love for her own son who’d escaped from China for a better life, translated…

She’d Hidden Her Tears So Very Well, Talking to Her Son in His Forties, Whom She Hadn’t Seen Since His Mid-Teens, I’m More than Certain, that It’s Not She Didn’t Cry, But that Her Tears Run Dry………

She’d NEVER Cried a Single Tear in Front of Anyone

That, was a voice they’d waited a lifetime to hear: “Eldest brother, it’s me, Shenling, this time when the eldest sister-in-law came to visit, she’d brought home a ton of gifts and money, we all missed you very much, and hope that next time………”, “Eldest uncle, it’s me, Red………(sob), the followed by the baritone voice, “Ming, when you have days off, do remember to bring the kids home to visit us all.”

Nearly twenty, young and old, men and women, including the nephews that my father never even met, and the only one who’d maintained the stature was my paternal grandmother. She is eighty-five years old, a life-long smoker, didn’t need her glasses as she threaded the needles. She managed to hide her tears so well, talking to her son who’d left home when he was just fifteen, and not seen for forty years on end, I’m more than certain, that it’s not she hadn’t cried, but her tears already, ran dry already.

My father was born in the beautiful, mountainous Guanxi, born in 1927, he was just in time, for the two turbulences of his time, at age fifteen, during the winters, he’d gone to Liouzhou with a classmate, to answer the calls of Chairman Chiang’s “A hundred thousand youth soldiers”. Just as he’d enlisted, as they were on their returns home, his two friends missed home a lot, planned to call home, and think about enlisting, my father recalled what my grandmother told him, “Ming, there’s nothing we can give to you at home, the only thing I’m proud of was that you’d taken the sturdy mind, and the determinations to weather through the hardships of your life. Remember, no matter where you go, you must, make your families proud.” But, enlisting is a road with no returns, he’s already on his way, he shall not make haste. And yet, for a young teen of only fifteen who’s never left home, the day of homecoming is the day of victory, this seemed, a bit, cruel. My father’s tears were dried up by the years, and, waited for forty whole years for his homecoming.她從未在人前掉過一滴眼淚那是等待多年的聲音:「大哥,我是顯林,這次大嫂回來帶...illustration from the papers…

My father was once my grandmother’s good helper, every day after school, he’d gone to chop up the firewood, and rushed before the supper time, hauled the firewood down the mountains to sell, and even if a bundle only went for ten cents. As my grandfather failed in his business venture, he’d vanished too. My grandmother sewed the shoes, raised chickens, tended her vegetable gardens…………but in that era, where it’d become hard for everybody to fend for her/himself, the smaller businesses didn’t last, and, they’d needed to go around the neighborhoods, to beg for a handout to keep the families fed. But, my paternal grandmother never shed a single tear.

Sewing Her Nostalgia, as Well as Her Tears, into the Handmade Shoes for Her Son

My older cousin, because he’s the eldest grandson, he’d gotten to spend most of the time with grandmother, knowing that she’d owned a treasure chest, that she’d taken out and cried to nightly, especially to a photo inside, every time she’d stared at it, she’d always ended up crying. She’d cried so very hard, over the son she’d declared was dead in front of everybody in the villages. Some asked her to erect a tombstone to prove it, “having the parents burying their offspring is already an act against filial piety, why must I announce it to the world?”, then, she’d taken off the stick that bunned her hair up, claimed that she shall kill herself in ramming her head into a tree, thankfully, someone stopped her from it. The villagers pulled back my grandmother who was in tears, and my father was relieved of the curse of being “buried in an empty grave” too.

I’m sure that what saddened my grandmother more, was how easily she’d put on an act, but how hard it was for her to find her son back. That man whom she’d carried inside of her for ten months, the one who’s closest to her heart, her eldest, is he, still alive? She’d hoped, that he would have arrived at the other side of the straits, and living his life now.

The days that followed, at dawn, my grandmother would head up the hills, started tilling up the land, planted the taro, the chestnuts, the yams………carried her homegrown produces down the mountains to sell, the roads were paved with sharpened pebbles, and they’d cut through the soles of her shoes, it’d made her bleed. And, that land wasn’t fit for planting, didn’t give her nearly fifty percent of returns, and, even as the harvest came, the thieves would harvest away all the produce overnight. She’d sighed toward the skies, but never felt defeated. For the sake of her family, she was willing to, walk on the roughest roads. Every evening as night came, she’d worked hard, sewing up the shoes, and every year, she’s always made an extra pair and put it into her treasure chest, that handmade shoes, she’d used her memories, draw and redrawn, altered, then dissembled, she’d managed to sew her own nostalgia for her son into the pairs of silky soft shoes.查看來源圖片homecoming, not my photograph…

Forty years flew by, my grandmother who’d waited for almost half a century managed to get herself up, although she’d lost the support from her husband, and she managed to stand erect and tall in the cannons, and faced the trials of getting hit by the bullets at anytime; even that one of her child is missing, she stayed strong, for all the other offspring who’d needed her.

 

The waiting for an entire lifetime came to an end the price was: my grandfather died in an unmarked grave, my third uncle died of consumption. And yet, if the past decades were call the darkness of night, then, my grandmother’s steady and stable voice, will be that rising sun, out of the horizons over the seas, I suppose.

So, this, is how much a mother missed her son, and, she’d allowed him to go away, because there was NO future for him back home, and she knew, that by sending him away was the only way he could live on, and that, was why this woman sent her own son off, despite how much she’d wanted to keep him by her side. The love of a mother is still, the strongest thing in the world here.

Friend, Long Time No See

Bumping into an old friend, and all the memories of your younger years just, all came back, translated…

I accidentally bumped into a classmate of mine from the elementary school years, Hsieh. There weren’t any reunions since we graduated. And it’d been, thirty years since, and, as we’d bumped into one another, “we’re both middle-aged men and women with the bellies now”, we’d made fun of one another.

“Oh, I think you’d not changed at all, you’d been chubby since you were a kid”, Hsieh added, and her words had, roused up ALL those long-forgot memories of my younger years.

“Do you recall once as we were practicing volleyball with the team at school, sudden, there was, a draft…”, before she’d finished talking, I’d hollered out in excitement, “I thought I was the only one who still remembered!”

That day, the sudden draft caused the dust and the dirt to turn into a dust storm on the fields, and, we weren’t worldly yet, and had all, hollered in excitement, “Look a cyclone!”, the few volleyballs on the ground were, rolling all over the places, and this “cyclone” had carried up the hats the students placed by the side of the volleyball court.

Watching those orangy-yellow caps turning in the wind, we’d all become, dumbfounded, treated the hats as people, we’d screamed, “Help! Help!” and the hats were carried off, about a dozen meters, causing this huge ripple in our simplistic elementary school years.

“But, I’d remembered the most, that we were all practicing sports, and you were singing by us, ‘let me tell you a secret place………’ then, the cyclone came.” Hsieh’s memories roused up mine too. Back then, I was nicknamed Fatso, but because they’d needed extra players on the team, so I got called up. And, the practices every morning wasn’t what Fatso was supposed to do, but, unfortunately, I can only help pick up the balls, and used my own way, to self-entertain.

“I saw you on the papers, I’m really glad for what you’d accomplished and what you’re doing now”, Hsieh turned the subject, and I don’t know if I was mistaken, but I think I saw a hint of sorrow from her eyes.

“Reading the news, I knew you still lived in Shulin, and that your parents were gone. I remember, that once a couple of us went to your parents’ shops, and Mrs. Yao gave each of us a bowl of shaved ice, with the toppings filled to the top…”, Hsieh seemed to have been even more immersed in the past now, each word she’d spoken, was with fuller emotion.

“You know, I actually stayed here too, and now, I’d, moved back home. It’s weird, how we’re, living in the same areas, and, this place is so small, and yet, it took us a whole of thirty years, to bump into one another.” What I was thinking of, as I heard this from her, got taken aback, I’d feared, that I may have, roused up something in the past for her.

“What are you doing now?”, I’d inquired, I’d wanted to switch to a more manageable topic, so we can carry on in conversation.

“Nothing much, I’m a housewife, I didn’t go to college, unlike you.”, ‘d recalled, that in the elementary years, she’d always made the high grades, and gone on behalf of the school to compete in a drawing contest, she was, multi-talented; don’t know if she’s being humble, or that she wanted to divert from talking about herself. As she talked, the wrinkles from the corners of her eyes would become this deep groove, I’d tried hard, to picture what she looked like as a child in my memories, that naturally curly hair, with a somewhat noble look, like the Sweet Girl from the cartoons—what had happened to through the years, and in her life, that’s, made us, into who we are right now?

“You loved to sing so, and, became a mime.”, I recall how we both fought for the first-place title of the singing competitions, we were both nervous, both wanted to win, there was a period, when I’d hummed, “I’ll wait for you by the docks, there’s a light drizzle coming down…”, I’d really wanted to ask this newfound classmate from my childhood, “You’d loved to draw so much, do you still draw now?”, but I just, couldn’t manage it out.

“We’ll see one another more then, old classmate!”, Hsieh, with her shopping basket in hand, and patted me gently, I’d held her wrinkled hands tight, it was, warm, and firm.

I think, everybody has her/his own stories, the way they coped with their separate lives, with a story of our own, it’s just, that it goes, without telling.

So, this is, bumping into an old classmate from your elementary school years, and, over twenty years had passed since, and, you are both, no longer who you were back then, so many things had, changed, you’d weathered through the separate storms of your separate lives, to get to where you currently are in life right now…

All the Way Southbound

A poem, translated…

On the Plains, Farther Off Still

The Tinier People are Pushing Along Their Tills

Taming the Fires to Even More Mildly Tempered than the Livestock

Drying Those Furs Turning to a Yellow Glow

查看來源圖片like this???  Not my photograph…

The Birds Stitched a Slanted Series of Uneven Claws

into an Undependable Stairway Up to Heaven, Look

the Sun is Falling Down

After Counting All the Enclaves

The Weeds that Filled Up the Windows Came & Receded Away

Sometimes, We’re Closer to the Cemeteries

That the Dead Can Read My Name Aloud

the various landscapes…not my photograph still…

Sometimes, that Ruin Suddenly Appeared

The Dirt and Mud from a Decade Before

Gave Life to the Newly Blooming Flowers

What Does the South Keep Still

The Young Father, the Younger Sister, a Cat,

a Dock, the Oil-Stained mast of a Ship————

The Trains are about to Arrive Now

the world, flashing by outside, photo from online…

and I will Be a Fitting Student

Coloring in the Slots of Time

Slot, by Slot

So, this, is just sitting by the sidelines, watching life blow by, there’s that sense of displacing the self, not participating in the goings on of the world, being a mere observer of the goings-on around you…

A Porcelain Named “Marriage”

We’d received that wedding present (yup, unfortunately, we still got H-I-T-C-H-E-D here!!!) from, uh, who was it from again???  Doesn’t matter anyways…

It was a wedding day present, and yeah, she just, sat inside that display case it got delivered to us in, looking so pretty, so white-faced, so delicate too, and because “she” was so delicate, so untouched, so clean-looking, we’d decided, to keep this porcelain we came to name “marriage” inside that display case, in the shelves.

the “before” photo…from online…porcelain doll 的圖片結果

Then, as the kids came one by one (yup, we’d reproduced like them rabbits too, don’t you know!!!), and I had one too many abortions to count, as those little ones, came too quickly!

And, as the kids started getting older, they’d started, experiencing the world through their senses (as all kids should be allowed to???), and one day, one of those RUGRATS got her hands, into that display case, where “marriage”, the porcelain lay in her dormancy, and, that daughter of ours, took her out, and, because she still hadn’t mastered her hand-eye coordination completely yet, oopsy, “Marriage”, the porcelain dropped, and shattered!

I ran into the living room, as soon as “Marriage” HIT the floor, “she” made that huge raucous (fine, maybe NOT loud, but I’d, still heard “her” shatter…), and, I told our daughter, to GET away, ‘cuz I didn’t want her to step on the shattered pieces and cut herself, and, as I pushed her aside, and started sweeping up the mess, our daughter started crying…

And I had to, go and calm my baby girl down, told her it was okay, that marriage is now, shattered, and that I knew she didn’t mean to break “her”, that it wasn’t, her fault, but heaven knows how much she’d blamed herself, and she’s, so very young too!

and here’s the “after” photo, still from online…a shattered porcelain doll 的圖片結果

After “marriage” the porcelain shattered into god only KNOWS how many pieces, I’d, replaced “her”, with a ragdoll named DIVORCE, and, after I gained SOLE custody (‘cuz you are NOWHERE fitting as a father to my daughter!), I’d allowed my daughter, to drag, DIVORCE, the ragdoll everywhere with her………

And yeah, someone D-I-E in this tale: it’s that STUPID porcelain named “marriage”!