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.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.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.