Monday, June 11, 2012

Tiger mother - Part IV, Mom's cry

Like all mothers in the world, Mom almost never cried in front of us.  So when she did cry, that made an impression.  I remember seeing Mom cried only twice in my entire life.

The first time was when she thought that she'd lost my brother Bing and I.  When we were in elementary schools, we did not need to attend schools everyday for full days.  Wednesday and Saturday afternoons we got to stay home (we had 6 work days prior to year 2000).  At those times, the little kids usually played within the boundary of the work unit where their parents worked and lived - the work unit in China also means "live unit" for many families.  Chinese government provides housing to its employees*.  At the time, Mom and Dad worked for the same unit, which allowed one of them to check on us on their breaks**. Although kids playing free of supervision usually were not longer than 2 hours per session, the free time, was sufficient for us to get in some serious troubles.  We would escape to go outside the boundary, exploring flee markets along the streets, shops, food courts, and even railways watching the passing trains - one of our favorite activities: I still remember our skipping over the railway logs, losing balance while walking on the metal rails, and jumping out of the way for the passing trains whenever we heard the train whistles... thinking about these now sends a chill down my spine!  How and why those passing trains did not kill any of us then is beyond me.

One day, Bing asked me to get out the unit to the roads again.  He told me that some new roads were being made and it would be constructed with a new and cool material called asphalt.  We heard of asphalt before because some kids at school had used those asphalt-headed sticks as weapons to fight, which got them in troubles.  Bing was a famous trouble maker at school and he must have felt left out without those sticks.  Thus, he wanted to make his own asphalt-headed weapons.  At that time, most of the roads in our city were covered by pebble gravels or cements.  Asphalt was something totally new and sounded fascinating to me.  It did not take much to convince me to play naughty anyways, since at that age, I often needed to beg him to take me to those mischievous "adventures".  If you have a sibling who is two years older, you may remember that he/she does not like you to follow him/her around, particularly when she/he is a teller?

So, it was the very first time that we saw asphalt was being laid down.  The big heavy dumping truck looked so amazing and the new roads smelled so wonderful.  Bing and I were watching and following the trucks and workers along the newly paved roads.  We completely forgot about the time.  When the sun went down, the workers were long gone, and numerous asphalt-headed sticks were made and hid in safely in between the folds of our sweater (I know, we were little and kind of dumb, you see), we thought about home, Mom, and Dad.  They must have been looking all over the world for us!  Bing and I tried to get home as fast as we could, but only one problem: our hands were completely black and we could not wash the stains off!  Now we left "evidence" for our misconduct and we knew we would be punished if Mom and Dad saw those black hands.  Bing suggested that we could wait until it became completely dark.  With no other better ideas, I followed his lead.  We hid close to home behind the bushes, listening our names were called by Mom and Dad, watching them passing in front of us countless cycles...

Finally, my hunger and fear of Mom and Dad became increasingly larger than my obedience and fear of Bing, I caved and came out crying when Mom and Dad once again were passing in front of us.  Mom and Dad did not say anything.  They might be contemplating their next move, or they might be having hard time to decide which was better: finding us back alive or losing us to those passing trains - they knew of our habits by then.  They had warned us the dangers repeatedly and made us promise not to do that ever again!).  They quietly took us home and shut the door.  As soon as we went inside the house (apartment, I mean), and Mom picked a wood long stick starting to whip Bing's butt with it.  Bing is someone who never ever cries.  He did make any sound, he would not say a word either.  Mom asked him whether he would still do such things ever again, he would not answer.  Mom, while whipping her son, she mumbled some words like, "I hit you, naughty boy.  You are the older one, you must be the one led your little sister to this.  You could have been killed by those passing cars.  If this happen again, I'll beat you to death..."

I was about 7 years old at that time, as far as I remember, I was never whipped by any of my parents.  Bing was the one who often got the blame for every naughty things that we did together.  Of course, I was the one who always cried when he was whipped.

Those whips were not the ones that Bing was afraid of.  It was Mom's tears, I later found out.

After the Mom's whipping, my crying, and Bing's silent admitting his fault, we had our dinner and bath.  Then we were sent to bed.  While in bed, we saw Mom cleaning our sweaters with the black stains in the living room.  What's shocking was that we saw tears running down her face.

She was not mad about what we did any longer.  Instead, she was sad, she cried.

Mom cried. Why?

Mom never cries!

Shortly followed puzzled, I was scared.

Bing did not say a word, still, but that sure was the last time ever he was whipped!

The next afternoon after our nap, each of us had one big red apple*** beside us.  We usually did not take naps.  Often, we wait for our parents to fall in sleep, and then we would sneak out to play.

I knew then that Mom was saying "sorry" to Bing and "I love you" to us.  It was the most beautiful and delicious apple that I have ever had!
* It was more than 40 years ago. At that time, almost everyone in the cities works for the government since all work units were owned by the government then.  Each work unit is demarcated by brick walls covered with sharp glass pieces at the top to prevent kids or thieves from climbing over.  People get in and out of the unit through only guarded gates.   

** The chinese has 3 breaks at any given working day: 9:30 - 9:45 am, 11:30 am - 2:20 pm, and then 3:30 - 3:45 pm. The noon break is long since we need to eat a formal lunch and a nap following that! No wonder we do not get much done, right?! Fabrice said the best time to invade China is at noon, every time he goes to China, he was amazed about the fact that the whole city is in silence from 12-2 pm! We Chinese do not work hard at all.

***  Apples in Southern China were very expensive since they were "imported" from Northern part of China, which took days at that time.  Most of the apples could not stand the abuse of long distance travel.  People like Mom and Dad would only purchase those expensive apples as special treats to us.
The second time Mom cried was when she received a telegram, which informed her that Aunt Er, her oldest sister who raised her like her mother, passed away. But that, my friend, you will need to wait for me to find time to tell the story in details.