Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Three Generations

This past weekend and the weekend before I went up to my parents' place in CT to hang out with my sister and niece, who were visiting from CA. I wish they lived on the East Coast so I can see them more than once per year, but then again, I do get an excuse to go to CA and hang out with my friends out there every year.

My niece had always been somewhat temperamental the previous times I had visited her. Sometimes she came running to hug me while other times she would barely acknowledge my existence, even during that time I bought her a huge stuffed puppy from FAO Schwarz!

Fortunately, she seemed a lot happier to see me these past two weekends. We held hands and skipped along on the sidewalk near my parents' house. I gave her piggy back rides when she was too tired to walk. When I hoisted her tiny waist on my shoulders and helped her "fly," the little rascal farted in my face! It stank too! I tried teaching her how to do a proper push up but her little arms weren't strong enough to keep her stomach off the ground, although she did get quite a kick out of climbing on my back while I was doing push ups. She always let out a hearty laugh and yelled, "You are naked!" whenever she saw me walking around the house without a shirt on. It's even funnier when we were walking on the street and she pointed to a statute and exclaimed with the same happy laugh, "He's naked!"

For some reason, she refers to breasts as "taggles," as in "That lady has big taggles!" which she actually yelled out to my sister once when they walked past an evidently very gifted lady at a mall. Once she pointed to a little black boy living across the street and said innocently, "You are very dark," which of course mortified my sister. Apparently, she has inherited her uncle's childhood ability to utter devastatingly blunt statements that could cause severe embarrassment to all grown ups nearby. Supposedly, there was this one time when one of my parents' acquaintances, who walked with a slight limp, came to our home for a visit, I greeted him with a loud "Hello uncle [a respectful term used for male grown ups]!" He acknowledged me with a big smile, so I followed up with, "Are your legs gimpy?" My parents wished they could have dug a hole somewhere and hid there. And that's probably the least embarrassing of all the amusing things I've said as a kid that my parents always reminisce about.

Anyways, as I looked around my parents' house at all of Cindy's toys and books -- the Dora chairs, jigsaw puzzles, lego pieces, crayons, children's books in both English and Chinese, finger puppets, coloring books, pieces of the playground set my dad was assembling for her -- I couldn't help but compare her charmed little life with that of my parents, my sister and me.

My parents have endured a tremendous amount of hardship in their lives. My father's mother passed away shortly after giving birth to him. My mother's grandparents were supposedly wealthy landowners before the Communists took over, which meant a huge black mark on her record and led to much persecution from her classmates. They were fortunate to have survived their teens because of the devastating famine that swept through the country and killed tens of millions. Just as they were preparing to leave home to go to college, the Cultural Revolution came crashing down on them. Dad was sent to some rural village on some mountain near our hometown and worked as a blacksmith making farming tools and kitchen utensils (he still has fond memories of the bulging muscles he developed) while Mom was sent to some other village hundreds of miles away to be a farm hand. By the time my parents finally made it to college, they were in their mid-twenties already. Then they had to juggle college/grad school with raising my sister, and, a few years later, me (for whom they had to get a waiver because I was born after the one-child policy came into effect and the only reason they were allowed to have me was that my sister was severely injured in a fire). After all that, they packed up all their stuff, left all their friends and relatives, and moved to America.

[To be continued ...]