A Chinese Mother and Her Foreign Son
On the morning of a forthcoming return trip from an i nterview in Northwest China, I sat in a three-square-meter stairwell and happened to strike up a conversation with a cleaning maid there who was helping with the cooking.
She mentioned her son was her pride and joy. Her son was still just a little tyke when her husband passed on, forcing her to become a single mother. She was most proud of the fact that the son of a single parent could be admitted to a university some thousands of miles away.
When her son left to follow his dream, the dynamic and energetic woman took on a new job to keep herself occupied, namely, cooking for the local children in a school. It was a hard job that paid less than four hundred yuan per month.
Many foreigners, including Americans, Russians, Australians, Japanese, Koreans and Britons, come from thousands of miles away to this remote mountain village in the Northwest to learn Tai Chi. They come and go regularly. The funny thing was, that this aging woman without even a modicum of English managed to leave a great impression on them.
James, an American student, learned Tai Chi in this backward
little village for one year. When he first arrived, he didn’t realize how bitterly cold the place could get. As a gust of cold wind blew across his bare legs only halfway covered in loose-fitting shorts, he turned blue and started shivering. She saw him and gestured to him, saying, “It is so cold and windy here in the winter, you can’t go without wearing long pants.” Later on, she brought a pair to him from her home, glad to see him put it on.
James said to her in his broken Chinese, “You’re almost like a mother to me.”
She cooked for them on a daily basis, while all gathered and ate together in the small stairway. Always a mischievous one, James would put his hands into her sleeve to warm them whenever they felt cold. Later on, when James was called back to active duty in the military, he made sure to run back to the kitchen to say goodbye. She made a gesture of shouldering a gun and asked, “James, if you were a soldier, would you shoot me if we met on the battlefield?”
Before he could reply, she said, “I would surely surrender my gun and run over with open arms and said, ‘James, my boy…’”
As the two bid farewell, this Chinese “mother” and foreign “son” shared a warm embrace and burst into tears, reluctant to separate for a long time.
“I cooked for him every day and watched him practice Tai Chi clumsily like my own child. Could you point a gun at your own child?” she asked rhetorically. “I don’t care if they’re black, white or yellow. I have never thought of them as foreigners. They’re all my children.”
After that, I heard from the principal that the most important thing for almost every foreign student who came here to learn martial arts was to hug and say goodbye to the cleaning maid. They said in various languages, “I love you, Mom.”
( From Yangtze Evening Post.
Translation: Qing Run)