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[ 2007-04-12 08:33 ]

Mother, How Are You Doing Up There In Zion?

By Han Tian

The leaves were once again falling; autumn was once again with us. This morning I had received a phone call from a friend inviting me to a small party at her home, which I was delighted and happy to accept.

As soon as I stepped into my friend’s garden, my eyes were instantly attracted by the geraniums and the chrysanthemums which were in full bloom. The fragrance from these flowers filled the air and reminded me immediately of my parent’s garden in the past. I felt a lump in my throat as the sorrows went through my mind; my tears gathered and flowed down my face. The chrysanthemums made me think of my mother who had passed away only last autumn. I looked up to the sky because I knew she was now living in Zion, in the seventh heaven.

My mind floated back in memory. My mother had been a very hard working, industrious and thrifty woman with strong Chinese traditional virtues. We were a family of nine people-----a large one with my parents, grandpa and grandma and us five children, three sons, two daughters. I was the youngest daughter born in the 1960’s.

Those years were bad years with most Chinese families suffering from the famine and other disasters. We as a family were one of those who experienced those hard times. We barely existed on father’s meagre wages and mother’s struggling income. Mother had a very hard job----dragging the river for sand grain, which she sold to the boss of a building site. Mother shared a big family burden with father trying to survive during those bad days.

I still have memories of mother getting up early in the morning before the break of dawn, tiptoeing out of the house with her tools trying not to disturb anybody. Although I was a little girl at the time, I understood in my mind that mother was heading for the river, which was in the vicinity of our house. She would stand in the river and scoop up scanty amounts of sand from the riverbed and then carry the heavy wet sand to the bank with a basket on her back and struggle by crawling towards on all fours. Her clothes would be dripping and drenched with sweat and the water seeping through the basket. During winter, whenever she came back home from the river, I would find her soaked through and trembling with the cold chill penetrating her body. Mother would accumulate the river sand into a large heap drying in the open and then riddle with a screen before selling to the building boss. No matter how hard she worked, our family could barely make ends meet.

I would always look forward to the day when mother would be selling the sand each month because she would always bring us children dainty bits such as konfyts, boiled peanuts, fried peas or broad beans from market after doing her business with the boss man. These eating stuffs look common nowadays to boys and girls, but for me during those bad times they were a big treat.

I remember sitting on the threshold at the gate, waiting for mother with my brothers and sister. I would rest my head on my hands, keeping my eyes on the road leading to the market. River sand holds a special token for me with both sadness and happiness, which has made a deep impression on me from my childhood.

Mother worked hard, as did so many, during those years. She lived a spare life-style, making many sacrifices and being rigorous with herself. She would never spend one cent if she considered it unnecessary. I remember very clearly during the year I started middle school, my farther brought home a fine piece of costume material because he was concerned that mother always wore patched clothes. Mother was unhappy with him for going to that expense and kept complaining to him about being wasteful with the money. Many years later after her death my sister and I were going through her belongings which she had kept in a large wooden case. I was shocked to find that piece of costume material at the bottom of the case being still intact. I held it in my hands and burst out crying: “Mother, my dearest mother, I was only 13 when I started middle school and now I’m 41 years old. It had been 28 years. Why did you always care for all us children but never yourself?”

I was working at my office when my sister phoned 500 kilometres away from the hospital to tell me that mother was seriously ill. I suddenly went dumb and dizzy and felt as if the sky had fallen in on me. We spent some time talking about mother and her condition, when I put the receiver down picking up my belongings and decided to head for the bus station. I only had one desire that was to see my mother in person as soon as possible.

I travelled all night and arrived at the hospital early in the morning. My heart was pounding with fear and anxiety, and I raced to the ward where I knew she was confined in. I rushed into the room and took a look at my sister’s face and knew it was not good. Mother just laid there with her eyes closed. It was clear this was her last day----her breathing was heavy and it was clear that she was being tortured by the cancer. I was now out of control my tears were running down like a rushing river. “Mama, Mama, please don’t leave us!” I murmured to her.

My sister put her arms around me as I tried to arouse mama from her coma. Her eyelids quivered slightly enough to tell me she had heard my voice her youngest daughter. It was clear she had a deathbed wish to see me one more time. My sister and I held each other with our heads on each other’s shoulders sobbing out of control. We both knew she was now on the road to Zion and with all our crying and the shedding of tears nothing could stop mama’s journey. That happened one morning last winter when mother gave up her life and peacefully went to sleep after many years of toiling never ever complaining, and always had a smile----she would always say: “Tomorrow will be a better day”.

I smelt the fragrance of those flowers in my friend’s garden and then my mother’s face appeared. Just like a burning candle, mother always brightened those cold winter nights for us. We were five children she had bred and worked so hard that all of us could graduate from universities and then saw us grow up and flew away from the family nest to establish our own lives, leaving the couple of decrepit swallows alone in the old nest. What hurtful to all five of us was her passing away so early-----denying us the wish to be able to pay back all those sacrifices she had made by allowing us to take care of her now that we were so capable of doing. In the past, I was seldom back home to see and accompany her, as I was busy with working. I thought I might have more chances to stay with her someday in the future when I had holidays. However, I now realize the chance to make up for that big loss has disappeared. It is too late to retrieve anything. Whenever I think about it, I always condemn myself with shame and regret!

It was the year when mother had taken her journey that the chrysanthemums in our old garden, which she had planted herself, were in such luxuriant bloom. I mixed the white petals with mother’s cremains and then walked over to the mountain slope at the back of our garden then scattered them into the breeze. I now know for sure that mother will hear our laughing and talking when we are staying at home with father---she will smile and be happy that we care.

It will be Mid-Autumn Festival again tomorrow (15th day of the 8th lunar month, one of the important Chinese traditional days for family members to reunite). It will be the first Mid-Autumn Festival after mother left. I’m going to see my father after the party and all my brothers and sister will be home too. However, mother is now absent forever. When I’m thinking of her, I get depressed and sorrowful with tears in my eyes.

The mum flowers in our old garden would be in full bloom again this autumn. I quietly said to her in my mind: “Mother, can you smell the fragrance there from beyond? Do you know how much I miss you? How are you doing up there in Zion?”


(选自中国日报网英语学习论坛 英语点津姗姗编辑)

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