Monday, December 24, 2012

A Story of Bear Grandma

Every night since last Friday, I have been reading about the massacre.  Sadly, journalists start to cool off.  But I truly wish that we do not put this behind so fast.  We should hope for some good things come out of this horror, such as establishing more stringent gun control laws.  I am so disappointed to know some people in this country have such a strong resistance to better gun control laws.  I am so worried about the fact that in this country, 9 out 10 people own a gun!  Guns are so deadly, why they should be carried around by people whose jobs have nothing to do with guns?  I am from China and used to seeing that guns are carried around everywhere, but those are carried by security providers, such as the police, who are trained to use guns safely.  Chinese army soldiers are not allowed to access guns unless they are at their training fields.  It's scary to think about guns in this country really.  Last time I went a dinner party and met one of the guests carrying a hand gun.  The party had plenty alcohol, what if he drank too much and then lost his control...It bothered me quite a bit.  Not only did it bother me that someone carries a gun to a alcohol-served gathering, but also this mentality - why in the world some people feel so strongly that they need self-protection at friends' party where only friends are invited?!

Anyway, let's take a break from these serious issues, shall we?  It's holiday and I am in a relatively relaxed mood.  I wanted to tell you a story which haunted me for life.  Consider yourself warned. 

My brother and I grew up without seeing much of our parents.  Mom and Dad had always been very busy with their jobs when we needed them the most.  They both were members of The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which means on the top of working full time, 6 days per week, from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm, they also needed to go back to work after dinner, say around 7:30 pm to 10 pm or later.  The nightly meetings were for those special CCP members to learn government's top secrets or to study The Works of Mao in order to build a strongest socialist country in the world - the biggest ambition of Mao.  Sorry, I mean Mom and Dad went to 
have their brains washed nightly, pretty much like every religious person here in the U.S. who goes to Church every Sunday.  Except my parents worshiped Mao, instead of God.  They were absolutely devoted to follow Mao's CCP party to march towards ultimate happiness!

China as a country was quite poor 40 years ago.  Majority of the countryside did not have sufficient electricity.  Imagine that you need to pass one whole night without electricity here?  Well, let me tell you, that was our life almost every night at that time.  When night comes, older kids would lid oil-lamps or candles to do their home works.  The younger ones including me would just play hide-and-seek until we saw absolutely nothing outside.  

It was then I came to know Aunt Tang, my nightly "Mom".  She was a very diligent and kind woman who worked every night to my knowledge.  She sew buttons on clothes.  Aunt Tang had 4 kids of her own, two girls older and one boy and one girl younger than me.  Since Aunt Tang's husband was also a CCP member, he was not home at night either.  Aunt Tang 
and her children thus were a perfect sitters and companies for my older brother Bing and me*.  After dark, Bing and I would come by her house sitting or lying in a big bed beside Aunt Tang's working station together with her younger children who often already fell in asleep at that time.  Bing and I loved to listen to her endless stories and I also loved to watch her sewing buttons.  Night after night, her stories never failed to keep us entertained.  She knew so many interesting stories that Mom and Dad never seemed to know, classic Chinese folk tales, European classic children stories, maybe even few American ones.  I believe I know of pre-Disney versions of Mulan, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping beauty, and Mermaids from her.

One of the stories that I heard from Aunt Tang is "A Bear Grandma" that every little Chinese of my age would know.  It has many versions with small differences - you can google with these words: 
熊外婆的故事.  As I said, it has haunted me for life.  Test yourself and see whether you will be scared.

Here is goes.

"I am going to visit grandma and
 I'll be back until morning, so you two be good at home.  Don't open doors if anyone knocks.  There is a bear in the forest and she often comes to hunt children when their parents are not home.  So, remember what I said.  Do not open the door!"  The mother told her two children, Lan and Hu, while they were eating dinner.  After the dinner, she left home and shut the door tightly behind her.

The bear was hiding under the window at the dinner time outside, so she heard all what the mother said to Lan and Hu.  As soon as the mother left, she went back to her cave, put on some clothes and a hat to cover her fur and then came to knock on the door.

"Xiao Lan and Xiao Hu, open the door, please.  I am your Grandma and your Mom told me to come to look after you while she is away."  The bear said. 

Hu was excited so he ran up to the door and ready to let the bear in.  But Lan was a bit older and more cautious.  So she asked the bear before letting Hu to open the door, "Grandma's voice is a lot prettier.  You sounded rough."  

The bear said, "Oh, that was because I caught a cold."

Lan then asked the bear, "Could you put your hand in and let me check." and then she opened the door just wide enough for the bear to stick her hand in.  Lan touched the wrist of the bear and said, "You are not our Grandma, because she has a jade bracelet." 

The bear went to the crop field and got a long bean circling around her wrist to made herself a bracelet.  And then she came back said, "Oh, the bracelet was on the other hand.  Here it is."

Lan checked and confirmed that the bear had a bracelet so she let her in.  While Lan was offering the bear grandma a chair to sit down, the bear refused.  "Grandma hurt the back and cannot sit on a chair."  The bear said to Lan and requested for a cage with holes.  Lan gave the bear a chicken cage.  The hear sat on the top of the cage and let her long tail sticking into a hole of the cage.  This woke up the chickens inside.  

Lan and Hu asked why the chickens were making noises.  The bear said, "Oh, they are just like you happy to see me here."

Lan was still a bit skeptical so she went to light a lamp.  The bear said, "Oh, grandma is very old and the light would hurt my eyesI"  So, she stopped Lan. 

Then it was time for bed.  The bear and Hu slept on one side and Lan slept on another.  

In the middle of the night, Lan woke up and asked the bear why the bed was wet.  It was the blood of her brother Hu but the bear told her that was Hu's pee and Lan went back to sleep.

Soon Lan woke up again, because she felt a soft and long rope-like stuff tangled her feet.  It was the interesting of Hu, but the bear told her that was a rope that she used to tied Hu to her so that he won't fall out of the bed. 

Lan then went back to sleep and soon she woke up again.  This time, she heard some crunchy sound as if someone was chewing bones.  She could not go back to sleep anymore.  She was totally scared this time, and nervously asked the bear, " Grandma, what are you eating?"  The bear said, "Oh, I am eating some fried beans."

Well, I cannot remember how this story ended now.  If you are Chinese and interested in finding out the end, you can read it here.  For English readers, you are out of luck, because this story is so scary, nobody is willing to retell it.  To brief you here, Lan lost her little brother to the bear but herself did not die.  She had found many ways to escape and finally, she lured the bear to a well in the yard outside.  The bear fell in the deep well and died. 

Again, because this story is passed on by word of mouth, many versions exist.  So I only can tell you my version.  
I wanted to tell my kids this story so many times, but I never managed to do so because they are only 5 and 3 and still are afraid of going to the toilet in the house alone.

* Aunt Tang did not get paid to take care of us.  She did that out of her kindness - that was common in China.  We all helped each others out based on our kindness.  

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