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吴少华纪念馆

A Small Gift to Grandma’s Centenary Birthday

Victor Li

  Perhaps it is hard to do justice to Grandma from scattered pieces of memory of a pre-teenager's. However, this year is her centenary birthday and snippets that follow are a small birthday gift to her.
  
  My earliest memory of her is her appearing from the far end of the back lane, walking ever so slowly, wearing her patterned golden headscarf and dark blue clothes. I had no idea where she had been and what for, but the thing that interested me was 今天买什么好吃的了?I was sure that she would produce some snacks from her bag.
  
  There had always been a lot of students coming to her for English lessons. I don't have any memory of what she was like before those students, perhaps I was always asked to keep away during those sessions.
  
  Then was the big event of her breaking her hip. The tale has been recounted many times that she was recovering ever so better from her rheumatoid arthritis in Beijing when she was knocked down by a builder, sustaining the fracture of NOF. Then she was transferred to the orthopedics hospital in Tianjin. It must have been a grillingly painful journey. Anyhow, she had ORIF with some kind of nails which apparently did not either improve the pain or mobility. When she came back home, she could not even do a chair transfer. Caring for her became a big issue, when both of parents were working full time. A lot of people helped: someone whom I couldn't remember gave her a golden Zimmer frame which was unheard of at that time in China; my grandma made a foam block wrapped with patterned brown cloth to support her back when she sat in the bed; carers came in the day to help her dress and wash. The second carer 王姨 had been with us for more than 4 years and she had been ever so nice to me, inviting me to her flat and cooking for me.
  
  In retrospect, it was hard to imagine how she went through those years. It must have been very depressing. She used to be a keen piano player, playing piano all her life. The piano was placed in her bedroom, perhaps less than 4 meters away from her bed. In my memory, since her fracture, she had only managed to walk to the piano once and play for a few minutes. However, she managed to keep rather positive most of the time and organized her time well. She subscribed and read China Daily, always with a well worn English-Chinese dictionary by the side, but of course she never read the Sports and Finance sections. She continued offering English lessons to children, including me. She also had bible study time with her friends. It was truly amazing that she adjusted her life and had rather happy years against all oddities.
  
  I always thought she hadn'tgiven me as many English lessons as her other students, as I always had more exciting things to do. To be fair, she started teaching English when I was four. The very first set of English sentences I learnt was "How old are you?" "I am four." Nevertheless it did give me a head-start by the time I went to junior high school. I felt confident and assertive in English, as if I were born better than others, simply because my grandma was an English teacher, perhaps the best in the city. Other students, however good they were in English, were self-made, hence no authenticity. I never quite enjoy Chinese, but I do English, which may have been the reasons why I chose to come to England many years later. She also had a rather big collection of books. Most of them were in English and I couldn't remember what they were. However, it did make me think it was a norm for one to own a big bookshelf or bookcase, with an interesting collection of books. When I rented my first flat, the very first furniture on my shopping list was a set of bookcases.
  
  As I said earlier, my recollection of her was rather quite fragmented and will never do justice to her life. The short writing was merely a few snippets from the eyes of a pre-teenager child.
  
  York YO23 3XH UK
  13th.June, 2021
  
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