They had an old Chinese courtyard house where there was a huge entry door with two very high wooden doors closed at night. There was also a high wooden panel across the doorstep to prevent leaves or dust from blowing in. I had to climb over the wooden panel since my legs were too short. We had two neighboring families, the Li (李) family and the Yang (杨) family. A few steps down from the gate, on the left side, there was a peach tree that my youngest uncle planted when he was young. The peach blossoms were so high that I could not reach them. There was a little creek running down the hill on the left, to right in front of our house, to a pond not far from our house. There was a Buddhist temple on the hillside, I used to be afraid of the huge Buddhist statue and it was very dark inside. Next to the temple, there was a tailor shop where my grandma used to take me to get my dress done. The tailor was a skinny old man with old glasses almost falling down from his face, he looked at me not through the glasses, but over his glasses. He was always telling me how pretty I looked in all the dresses he made for me. The road to downtown was on the right. On the other side of the road were fields and fields of crops. I had a great time with my grandparents for about six years by myself.
My grandfather Guan (官) was bedridden with lots of pillows behind him, with an over three-foot long pipe smoking. He had many kinds of pipes, long and short. I used to play with his copper hookah water smoking pipe because when he smoked, it made blub-blub sounds. This article is the best description of my memory.
|Copper hookah water smoking pipe|
Every morning, my grandmother took me to the farmer’s market. My grandfather always told me to hold my grandmother’s hand, to be good, and so on. My grandmother would always buy me a little snack or other treat. Sometimes, my grandmother took me to my relatives’ house on the way to shopping. I always admired that they had so many wonderful things in the house, so many kinds of candy and cookies in an octagonal black lacquer box decorated with a gold phoenix. It was a very nice treat for me each time my grandmother and I visited since I didn’t have any toys and I could not have candy or cookies every day. They always told me to have as many as I wanted. I always took a long look at the different kinds of candy in each partition, then picked one. I really wanted more, but my grandmother told me to only pick one. My grandmother said this showed that we had pride.
Once, I got lost although I do not remember how. I remembered being carried on the back of a police officer. On the way home, we saw a big crowd of people. The policeman stopped to see what was going on. The people were trying to kill a cow. That was the most horrifying moment in my life. I do not remember how we got home. I could not ever recall the image of a cow being killed. I just could not forget a cow was killed, maybe because I am a “cow” in the Chinese zodiac calendar. Later when I was older, I understood that the police officer had to carry me all over the town to see who knew me since there was no other way. Fortunately, it was a small town. Everyone knew our family.
I was sick almost all the time; my youngest aunt who was still single or even my neighbor would carry me on their shoulders, back and forth to the local clinic. I don’t remember how many penicillin injections I had. Every time since I never cried, my doctor always gave me the little empty medicine bottle to take home as a prize and called me “little hero” since my name happens to be a female warrior in a classical movie.
I spent a lot of time resting in bed. My grandparent’s bed was a traditional black lacquer-finished canopy bed. There was a white mosquito net around it. If I closed the front side, it instantly became my clubhouse. The other three sides were black and gold colored, carved wooden panels. The traditional Chinese pillow was a like a long log almost as long as me. On each end of the pillow were silk patches of embroidered flowers and a pair of mandarin ducks. I used to pretend the pillow was my patient and I was the doctor giving the shots. When I lie in bed in the dark and could not go to sleep, my favorite thing to do was to stare in the dark until a small multicolored ball of light showed above me at the far end of the bed. I watched it approach. It was the best thing you could ever see, and each time I tried to catch it, it popped and was gone. So I learned to be patient and just watched the ball showing up, come toward me and then disappear over and over again.
|My grandparents' lacquer-finished canopy beds were black and gold color|
|My brother Jie and I when my brother came to visit Zigong.|