We lived on the 3rd floor of our apartment in Mansfield. We were living at a very convenient place for my dad. He worked for people he knew. He worked as a cook for them. And if my memory serves me right, just a block away from work. Right in front our apartment was a park. I remember discovering fireflies! I remember capturing them and putting them in a jar and getting artificial light from them.
The most memorable “animal” was a bat. This is what I remember. Our apartment has a front entrance and a rear entrance. I was too young to ever to go down the rear entrance. It probably leads downstairs to the garbage cans and the yard. I was too scared to go down the back stairs because it was so dark in the stairways.
One night a bat flew into our apartment from the back stairs. I was scared. My dad must still be working. My mom was the hero for the day. She fearlessly took a broom and chased the bat. Running back and forward trying to knock down this pesky (probably as scared as I was) creature. Can you imagine my mom running up and down the long hallway chasing the bat?
I was so scared that I don’t remember what happened after my mom got it. I think after many lucky whacks she managed to down the poor thing.
Thanks mom. Poor bat.
Our mom was a typical Chinese with about 50 years of American influence. Our mom does not do the American mom show of love. When she is upset with me, she calls me “monkey king.” She does not give compliments. She definitely did not give me any hugs. Yet we all love mom more than dad.
She was the faithful mom who took care of us. She was the peacemaker between dad and us. She faithfully provided us with meals when we were home. Later when I was a little older and can take care of my sisters, she would accompany dad as they go out to play Mahjong. I think she goes along to make sure dad does not spend too much money.
If I remember correctly, for our meals, we would always have some sort of soup, vegetable, and meat. The soup was not just to quench our thirst but medicinal at times. Soups that are medicinal really were not a hit in our home. I learned that a couple of my sisters would secretly pour this kind of soup into the toilet. I never knew about this when I was living at home. My sisters must have been pretty sneaky that I didn’t even know.
(Note: Mom taught me indirectly how to cook. Dad also contributed because he was a professional cook. I got his genes? When our parents go out in the weekends to play Mahjong. I was tasked with providing a meal for my sisters. I was also given a very limited amount of money to make our meal. I was given ten dollars. This meal would have to feed all six of us. To supplement I would have to make rice. Back then there was no such equipment call a rice cooker. At least we didn’t have one. So it was the old fashion way of cooking rice in a pot. My first couple of attempts resulted in burnt rice. The rice was uneatable because of the strong burnt taste. Once the rice cooking was conquered, I had to come up with the compliment to the rice. Some of my dishes did not go well with my sisters. I loved corned beef. So I made this dish. It was not a hit with my sisters.
My pride dish was bok choy. Mom would make it for dad. It was very plain. The dish consisted of bok choy, oil, salt, and garlic. Dad loved it and enjoyed the salt juice that was in the dish. This juiced mixed well with rice. I learned to love this dish as well so I asked mom to teach me. Mom was not much of a teacher. I learned by watching her cook this dish. After a few tries, I perfected this dish.)
The most visible show of our mom’s love was in her actions. She always remembered our birthdays. And when it was our birthday, she would cook the traditional chicken for us. And she still remembers what part of the chicken we liked. She would make sure we get that piece on our birthday.
After we all grew up and left home, mom continued to show her love. When we take her out to eat after her dialysis treatment, she would always insist on paying. And she would order all the dishes that she remembers we like. There was more food than one can eat.
Love doesn’t always come the way you expect it. Sometimes you have to look a little closer to for that love. Mom would frustrate us at times but in her beats a heart of love for us.
After I arrived in America, I lived with my dad and mom in Mansfield, Ohio. Dad was in America working out the paperwork to get mom and me to enter the United States. When I arrived, I did not know a single English word. A couple of teachers looked kindly on my parents and tutored me to get me up to speed. We did not stay in Mansfield long. We may have stayed at least nine months because my sister Mae (Angie) was born. I was too young to know my time and calendar. I remember a little more when we moved to Shelby, Ohio. Dad had started a Chinese restaurant there while mom and I stayed home. Terri was born in Shelby.
My tutors were kind when I failed. I remember how proud I was when I learn to spell numbers in the 10 bases. So when I was asked to spell “40”, I confidently wrote: F-o-u-r-t-y! They patiently corrected me.
Not only did they tutor me but they took an interest in me. I remember getting a toy lantern that had three different color light inside. The lantern had three bulbs that were red, green and white. I remember ducking underneath my bed cover and playing with my little lamp.
One tutor also took me to her farm one day. I remember two things from that visit. When we eat dinner. We had a lot of food to eat. The different kind of meats and vegetables. The two food that I remember was corn and mash potato.
I also got a big long scratch down inside my left arm. A cat scratched me. I didn’t know how to hold the cat, and it panicked an jumped out of my arms, leaving me a bloody red cut.
These tutors kept in touch with me through the mail until they both pass away while I was in my adult life.
Mrs. Tracy and Mrs. Griffith, thank you for your help, care, and prayers.
Well, folks, I am out of ideas again and need to use another thought question: What song reminds you of good times from your teenage years?
This thought question was hard because I have a lot of songs during my growing up years in Junior High School. My Christian life didn’t start until High School. There are many favorite songs that I grew up with. This song, “Sherry” is of particular interest because it was my first memory of having a “girlfriend.”
I put girlfriend in quotes because it was kind of a one-way relationship. I was just out grade school – Jean Parker. Our family had moved to what we call the Projects. We were living in the newest one – North Ping Yuen on Broadway Street. This girl, let’s call her Sherry, was also going to Francisco Junior High. And she lived in the same project that I was living in.
The events on how we hook up are still fuzzy to me. All I remembered was that Sherry wanted to hang out with me. Just having her be with me was a big thing. Up to this point, no girl actually wanted to hang out with me – alone. What did we do? Nothing much. We just walk around our neighborhood. We live at the edge of Chinatown. So there were much to see. It was an unusual relationship because she would want me to take off my glasses when I am with her. I could see, but people far away would be slightly blurred.
One day my mom found out that I was hanging around Sherry. And she said the most prophetic words. Mom told me that this is not the right girl for me. And I should not be seeing her. What does she know of young love? What do I know of young love?
My relationship with Sherry did not last long. I think she wants an edgier tough guy. I was more the nice, quiet and shy guy. So she broke up with me. I did not take this break up well. I still want to see her. She would avoid me.
How does the song Sherry affect me? In the song, part of the lyrics would say “can you come out tonight?” I lived on the 4th floor, and she lived on the 9th floor. And her window faces the courtyard that was in our building. During those heartbreak moments. I would find myself looking up to her window and wishing she would come out and see me again.
Looking back, it was a bittersweet time. The excitement of a girlfriend. And the loss of a girlfriend all in one summer. My mom was right. Sherry was not the type of girl for me. I am so glad even when I was not aware of it, God was watching out for me.
May, thanks for the memories.
It started two years ago. Nope, I think I could trace it back even further in time. I would say that it started out with me trying to improve my preaching. I had latched on to the idea of storytelling in my preaching style. I practiced storytelling as best as I can with my limited preaching engagements. When Sylvia approached me about taking a few night courses about reading to preschoolers, I jumped at the chance.
Behind my thinking was the idea that I would be storytelling to the children. Reading to children would be storytelling, wouldn’t it? Since the classes were at night, I would be driving Sylvia because she wanted to attend these courses more than I. I am also helping my wife by being her driver.
We have a charming and thoughtful person, Rochelle who was in charge of the Books for Wider Horizons program. She partners with public schools to provide readers to read to the children for free. Yep, this is a volunteer gig. No money changes hands. She asked us if we have some preferences for where we would want to read. We told her it would be nice if we could walk to our place of engagement. She placed us at Yuk Yau Child Development Center.
At first, it was a half hour of story time to the preschoolers. We were taught not only to read to the children but to incorporate finger play as we sing or spoke the rhymes. I really enjoy seeing the wonderment and joy in most of the children’s faces. I wanted more interaction with the children. I asked if there was play time for the children. If there was, I wanted to know if I can come and play with them. I was granted permission by the lead teacher.
The children have play time at 10:30 am. I would have to be at school a whole hour earlier if I wanted to play with the children. So on Friday, I would get there early to go out to the yard to play with the children of Room One. Room One is where I was assigned to read. There are three rooms for the children. I had fun! After playtime was lunchtime. Okay, I can see what happens at lunchtime. Because after lunchtime is my turn to read to the children. During lunchtime Room One and Two are in the lunch room. Three tables on one side of the room for Room One children and the other three tables for Room Two children.
I found that it was also an enjoyable experience for me helping and serving the children. In this setting, the children were in assigned seats so that I can get to know them by name and interact with them.
In the beginning, after I read to the children, I would pack up and go home at 12 noon. At noon the children are made to settle down and take a nap. I ended up tucking them in for their nap. I enjoyed this experience of being with the children.
I don’t remember how long it took me, but I decided to come on Mondays to help out. I don’t have the responsibility of reading to them. I just help out.
A note: On Wednesdays, I had volunteered to be with grades school children in the late afternoon. But this stopped because the church ended having monthly chapel time for the children. So I ceased going in the afternoon on Wednesday. One day I decide to go back and see the children. For some reason (not their fault) the children that I interact with did not interact with me. Because I was no longer needed, I went over to Yuk Yau to see the children. The children and teacher were surprised to see me. And I felt welcome. This was how Wednesday afternoon became regular. I would not have gone on Wednesday except that one teacher’s assistant put it in my ear that coming over in the afternoon would be helpful and appreciated.
Why am I telling you all this about helping at Yuk Yau? Just today I was reading a book and about Mark 10:13-16 it talks about Jesus receiving the little ones and blessing them. I know I could tell people I am doing a good deed by reading to the children and getting them to love to read. I thought that I was being selfish because the children give me so much laughter and joy when I am with them. For the pessimist out there, yes, there are fussy children. They are unruly at times. Some are even disobedient to the adults in the room. But I choose to see the innocence and joy in them.
Today I believe that God reveals a reason I am there with the children. I am to be a blessing to them. And they are examples of what we should have in following God. Having that innocence and joy as we trust a caring God to be with us.
Have you seen those stories that are posted where a couple is holding hands? The girl lets go of the guy’s hand. Some other girl comes walking, and he holds out his hand taking the hand of what he thinks is his girlfriend. I know most of these stories were staged.
When you are old like me, you don’t need anyone to try to fool you. This happened to me while I was on my date with Sylvia. Our date is going shopping for groceries. We were at the section where there are refrigerated milk and all kind of chilled beverages. We were looking for a particular product that was supposed to be free for us to sample. I wandered the display cases looking for this product. I could not locate it. I proceeded to move our cart to move on. Then my mind said where is Sylvia and why are there no items in your cart? A random cart was left in the aisle and I just absentmindedly started pushing it instead of our cart. Sylvia wondered what I was doing.
This reminded Sylvia of the time that she and my sister, Terri try a trick on me. Apparently, Sylvia let go of my hand and had my sister Terri take my hand. Sylvia said that I noticed it right away. Of course, I would see it right away. Doesn’t everyone know the touch of the wife’s hand? We got a good laugh on mistaken cart and hands.
As I was writing this blog. I noticed it was time to stop and prepared dinner. I have two pairs of glasses. One for driving and one for working on the computer. I saw that my driving glasses were on the table. I started looking for my computer glasses. Where is it? I could find it. I wanted to wear my computer glasses because I would be stir-frying. I didn’t want any oil to hit my eyes. I could not find my computer glasses!
Oh well, I thought, I’ll look for them later. For now, I’ll use my driving glasses. The driving glasses are really bifocal. So this pair can be used far or near activities. I pick up my driving glasses to put them on. And I realized that as I was putting them on, I am WEARING my computer glasses! Oiy!
I told Sylvia of this incident during dinner, and we had another good laugh together.
We were married. We were living in Hayward. Sylvia’s identification card was going to expire soon. She decided to get her driver’s license instead of another California id. So I volunteer to teach her to drive. At that time, I was the only driver. We had a Volkswagen bus called Onesimus. The car was name Onesimus because it was useful. Onesimus had manual drive. I had learned to drive a VW van and enjoyed toggling the stick when I drove.
I was first introduced to the VW bus when I worked my first outdoor-type job. I was introduced to this job by a church member. Before this job, I was helping this church member type insurance policies. She had this arrangement in which insurance forms were delivered to her house. She would then type in the information provided by the company. The next day the finished policies would be collected from her home. Since I was proficient at typing fast and accurate, she offered to pay me if I go over to her place and type the policies. The pay was in different amounts per policy typed. I did this so well that I was offered a job by this company to do it in my home.
A little while after I got my driver’s license, I was offered this pick-up and delivery job by the same company that had me typing policies. I would pick up and provide the policy forms from companies and typists. The mode of transportation would be a VW van with the middle seats removed so that the polices could be loaded and unloaded. Policies for the typists would be in green pouches.
I had been driving manual for fifteen years by the time I taught Sylvia. And my car of choice is a VW van. This was the car that I use to teach Sylvia to drive. It was not easy for Sylvia. She had to learn the rules of driving and how to toggle a stick as she shifted the car’s gears. Like me when I first learn to drive a manual, she made the vehicle “kangaroo” a lot.
After many frustrating lessons with Onesimus, we thought it would be a lot easier if she learns on an automatic car. Using an automatic would relieve the stress of manipulating the stick as Sylvia learn to drive.
Thus we became a two car family. An automatic blue Nissan Sentra Wagon named Ruth because the car that would go everywhere Sylvia would go.
My fear of heights has gotten to the point that when people start to describe a very high place, my knees will turn weak. I get weak knees easily when I am not feeling 100 percent. Sometimes when I drive across the Bay Bridge on the far right lane, next to the railing, I would get weak knees. In fact, while I am describing this, my knees started getting weak. I also avoid driving up to Lake Tahoe because there is a stretch of road that looks down steep embankments.
It is so bad that even raised walkways will make my knees rubbery. Don’t even talk to me about elevators that have a glass view from floor to ceiling. Ugh. We have a balcony where we live, and it is permanently closed. It is bad enough for me. When I see someone leaning over the balcony, I am affected.
I remembered when we first move into our unit. We had to move our queen size bed up to the second floor of our place. Unfortunately, the main frame of the bed could not get past the low clearing that leads up to the second floor. The movers had to go to the bedroom windows and hoist the frame up from the balcony below. I could not even watch as the movers did this maneuver.
Earlier in life when I was with Sylvia at the Great America amusement park, Sylvia want to go up to this “space needle” that had a great view of the amusement park. Even though I was afraid of heights, I volunteer to go. I figured I just stay away from the balcony while she looks around. I did not know that the whole floor was transparent!!! I was hugging the elevator walls as I wait anxiously to go back down.
As I look back in my life, I believe it was the fall on the stairs of our home in Toi San, China that traumatized me. The way that my mom tell it was that when I was little I fell down the stairs and my left side of my head hit the hard stone stairs. Mom said that I bled and bled and the people did not know what to do to stem the bleeding. She said that that had to pack mud on my wound.
I had a chance one year to go back to my little village in the hills where my house was located. I was expecting to see at least one concrete stair in front of the house. We have two entrances by the way. I think we were also considered well-to-do because we had a collection well that catches the rain and give us indoor rainwater. Anyway, the stair that I thought was menacing was less that one inch from the ground in height. But in the home’s doorway is a raised barrier. You have to step over this to get in or out. I probably tripped over this as a child and bump my head.
To answer the question posed. I would walk out to our balcony and yell. Yahoo!
My youngest sister, Maurine (She is sixth in birth order.) loves to talk. At our family, Christmas Eve gathering at my sister, Angie’s (I still call her Mae. She is second in birth order.) place, Margaret (She is fifth in birth order) and I was just listening to Maurine talk. As Maurine was talking, a distant memory of her came in my mind.
We were all sitting around the dinner table in our “Clementina” house. I call our place “Clementina” because of the street that our house is on. We were eating dinner. The dining room table is actually in the kitchen. We all sat at the table that held all eight of us. Dad sat at one end of the table. Mom sat at the opposite end of the table. The rest of us sat on the two sides. My back was to the stove behind me. Maurine was at one of the seats that had her back to the wall. I don’t remember where my other sisters sat. All of us would speak English among ourselves. When we talk to mom or dad, we would speak Cantonese. The image I have was that Maurine in her blue-green sweater would talk and talk and talk as we listen. Eventually, I would tell her to stop so that she could finish her meal.
I don’t remember what we talk about. I do enjoy the time we spent as we ate together. I am not sure why my parents insist we sit and eat together. I am glad that we did. Except for occasional times in which dad would get upset with us for speaking in English, I can’t remember a too much sad time at the table.
I think dad must have had a bad day or something when he is upset. He would yell for us to speak in Cantonese. All conversation would stop. We ate in silence. Then after a spell, we would start up talking in English again.
To this day Sylvia and I would try to have dinner with everyone sitting at the table. The table is where we get to hear about each other’s day. Before we had foster children, we would eat at the table. News, laughter, and sadness were all part of our meals together.
Later on, when our foster girls joined us, we continue this tradition of eating at the table. It doesn’t happen every day but when both girls are home. We try to have at least one day of the week eating together at the table. Sometimes we go out to eat, I look forward to coming home and sitting around our table and just talk. News, laughter, and sadness continue in our home.
Our girls had a big trip planned. They are going to Hong Kong and visiting with their relatives. It was an early morning flight. I drove all of us to San Francisco International Airport at 4 am. It was very dark in the early morning. I considered this “night” driving.
I took my usual route to San Francisco via the Bay Bridge. I usually take the Grand Avenue entrance. The entrance was so dark that as I drove into it, it seems like there was nothing there. I was driving into darkness. I panicked slightly and slowed down as I entered. It was a scary moment thinking that I would crash into something.
Another thing that was disconcerting was that the lane on the freeway is not that well lit. The reflectors on the road were not reflecting. And the lines that mark the paths were worn and faded. I had a hard time driving within my lane, especially during the curving part. One is not sure where one strays from the road or not.
I thought the previous incident was just an aberration because I may have been tired for such an early morning task.
Not so. During the Christmas vacation. I would have to drive down to Redwood City for Sylvia’s family dinner. Driving home from Redwood City was tough. Again I could not see the lane and road very well.
It also happened the next day when we went to my side for a family dinner. Driving home at night was a chore as I again struggle to see the road.
I am not sure what will happen when I no longer feel safe driving at night.