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The Home of My Soul




Portrait in Memory (1) 原创  

2006-08-01 01:12:12|  分类: 记忆中的肖像 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Words on Top Leaf


Time has been already over forty years, the way of life is also not far. As the saying goes: " A man seldom lives to be seventy years old ", 60 is also rare, moreover, I have weak health: Enterorrhagia has occurred since March 1972 and it appears to be alternating between diarrhoea and constipation so far, left Abdomen and right

Hypochondrium vaguely pain frequently and sometimes reflects to the right back, appetite is weak, the aggravating feeling of foreign matter blocking up in the throat has been for years, body weight slumped, nasal hemorrhaging happens sometimes, the upper gum on the left is bleeding constantly.

These indicate ill omen! It is not that I am afraid of death, I only think: "Have not finished the long-cherished wish of seeking my family in this transient life. In addition, though have made some contributions to the Party and the people but far from repaying the favor of fostering that the Party and people's army give me in all my life, I feel regret deeply. Moreover, I have already had family of multitudinous members, children are all in study in, not grown up yet, it is difficult to rest assured in fact, so the desire for live is strong, but wish is unable to violate the objective law, let things take their own course. Taking the light of the last days of my life I would like to leave something commemorable to the children and with a gleam of hope that maybe, if it is lucky enough, there would be an accidental chance to finish my pity according to the clues I offered and realize my desire of finding home! And that will be a Good fortune!

 The most deadly weaknesses of mine in all my life are lacking of willpower and resolution: Whenever disease is serious the desire of cherishing the departed and leaving the family history is strong, and it vanishes completely when it is a little bit better. Of course, inertia is the root; actually some things could be done by making the best use of time, But, because of the willpower is not strong, they were delayed several years or even decades. Time passes, the people died and the situation has changed, it is too later to repent and all ended in being mediocre and unambitious all the life---- accomplished nothing. I did seek my family actively after liberation; it was in 1952 and 1955. Only by writing letters according to my own memory and did not fall back on the Organization then and all like stones dropped into the sea that produce no reactions. It is actually because of the over 30 years’ long parting from Hometown and being just at the time of the eight years’ turmoil of war when leaving home, and being still young (about 4 --5 years old) could not remember many things and can not put forward an intact clueLater, it was because of being short of money I could not go back to seek in person. It is pity that I even failed to go, taking the good opportunity of the Great Contact during the Cultural Revolution. It is really very regrettable! Only to keep the regrettable past events in notebook, hoping my children will know where the native place is and Father’s rough lifetime experience.

My Family and My Childhood

In my misty memories, having in remembrance that my home village is Shanggang Village (Oral speech sounds) Linjiang Town Jiangxi Province, not knowing if the village really existed, but my parents and I did not live in Shanggang Village but in a house outside Linjiang Town. Memories about the concrete circumstance of the place are really not many, maybe in a courtyard house where a lot of households (tenants) lived there. There were stone doorsteps at the entrance, going down the steps and cross a road the city wall can be climbed. The ruined wall was overgrown with artemisia.

I remember that Mom took me with her to sun sweet potato chips on the top of the city wall, they were cooked and would be stored after insolation (drying) until the Lunar New Year and fry to eat.

 Dad, in my impression, has been had only one glance. It was a nightfall when I was blubbering, Mom could not coax me to stop, she stood on the stone step holding me in her arms crooning “Ah…”and said “Look, your dad is back”, then I learnt that besides Mom, I have a dad as well. I saw Dad went into home carrying a plough on his shoulder, a whip in his hand. Hereafter, I have no impressions about Dad. Mom’s feet were banded (at that time women with small feet were regarded as pretty, so every female should band her feet when she is still a child), and walked with tiptoes turning out like the Chinese character “Eight”. She took care of me and did the housework at home. I was the only child in the family then, no Brothers or Sisters were seen. What surname is of my family and what Mom’s name is were all unknown to me, as well as the name and age of myself, only heard Mom often called me Zhou Shengzi (Oral speech sounds). Whether or not my family name is Zhou or related to the Character Zhou? Other kith and kin were all unknown.

Dad was press-ganged by the Kuomintang one night; then and there I was waken up with a start from a sound sleep by the howls. Seeing Mom was flagitating them with tears in her eye… I was frightened to cry. After Dad had been taken away, Mom and I were helpless, so Mom had to take me back to Shanggang Village with her (seemed that we lived in Cousin Guizhi’s house). During the time Mom was sobbing all day and every day. I was innocent only being too fond of playing, as if the being taken away of Father had nothing to do with me. Once, at night, the relatives sat around in the central room and chatted, the comforting and blessing words are ceaseless. At last, Mom held me up in her arms and asked, “ Zhou Sheng, you say, if Dad will come back?” I seemed to comprehend the wishes of Mom and the relatives. So, I nodded my head immediately. Mom smiled with sound through tears, and this made all the persons in the room smiled, because there was a superstition among the villagers considering that the words from the innocent kid’s mouth would be very efficacious.

 The outline of Shanggang Village still in mind: A village, which was not big, ran transversely, facing the fields and back on to a small massif, the whole village situated on a slope which is not very high. There was a long lane in the village and all the houses on both sides were facing the lane. Below, in the front of the village, there was a biggish ancestral hall a place where the villagers offer sacrifices to their ancestors. Mom and I lived in the middle of the block backing on to the hill; the back door led to the hillside. There were many camphor trees on the hillside and I had picked up camphor seeds to eat under the camphor trees several times. In the lane, slantingly opposite our house was a household that makes malt sugar, remember that I often went to buy his malt sugar to eat, and when ever I was insubordinate the adults would coax me with buying the malt sugar. At the other end of the lane near the exit there was a small brick doorframe and in the front block near the doorframe there was a rich family. My deepest impression is that the rich family often went to law against Guizhi’s family. The wardrobe and furniture of the rich family’s were lacquered black, but Guizhi’s family’s were ruddle (Black lacquer furniture meant rich). Often heard the folks saying that whenever anyone of the oldsters of his family (the rich family) were ill they would move the patient to Guizhi’s house to live by force, intended to bring bad luck to Guizhi’s family. So, when I was in Shanggang Village I saw that Aunt (Maybe Grandaunt, I don’t remember) moved to the back bed of the rich family’s and flake out there when her ailment was far gone, I went there to play several times. Aunt died in the big bed of the rich family really, later. The family circumstances in Shanggang seemed to be fairish at that time: Tables, chairs, cabinet and closestool were all newly lacquered ruddle, much more luxurious than my family in Linjiang. In the family at Shanggang there were Aunt, Cousin Guizhi, Sister-in-law (Cousin Guizhi’s wife). Mom asked me to call Guizhi “Brother”. He was an adult then; it was him who trundled us in a wooden wheelbarrow to go and fro between Lingjiang and Shanggang. Sister-in-law was a little bit fatter and smaller than Cousin was. The other ones had no impressions in my mind. I like to gnaw at drumstick at home and there is a drollery here that I often called muscle fat and this often made everybody laugh. I saw the funeral of Aunt at Shanggang, and calls to mind now still has some impressions: Inviting, at first, over ten people to blow suona horn and lead the way in front, and the whole family of ours in mourning knelt down on the roadside at the edge of the village to meet. And then, arranging the people hired to settle down in the ancestral hall, killing pig to give a banquet and entertain the guests. Sister-in-law had asked me to go to the ancestral hall to bring a bowl of meat to eat; the Kitchener would not give me then until someone aside said that my family offered the pig. The next day, the people hired dug three big stokeholes on a balk in the fields, put on cast-iron frypans and boiled three panful of water. Sister-in-law said: Before Aunt was put in coffin all her clothes would be taken off to get her swabbed down and her clothes would be changed, and then (the coffin would be) put in our own field for three years before burial. The above-mentioned are what I remember in Shanggang Village.

It is seemed that Mom has told me that Dad was planting vegetables in Linjiang, I did not if he had done this himself or if he had been a hired laborer. It was here (I do not know in which year), Kuomintang was press-ganging able-bodied men everywhere, and Father was taken away under this circumstances. Since Dad was taken away Mom and I had been eking out existence miserably until one day an unexpected message was heard: Someone took an oral message from Linjiang said that Father had run away home from the cantonment and staying at home at present and dare not out, we mother and son were asked to come back at once. Mom was filled with elation and amazement when she heard the news and urgently wanted to go back, but the bejesus unluckily rained for over ten days as if it wanted to oppose us on purpose. The torrential rain did not stop, the mountain road was slimy and moreover, Mom had banded feet could only depend on Guizhi to trundle us in a wooden wheelbarrow to go back. Guizhi said, “ The way is hard to go, we’ll go when it is clear” and the other relatives also persuaded, “ It’s fine that he is back, don’t worry, just wait until it is clear then you can start off”. Thence, we were expecting the weather to be clear helplessly every day. As soon as the weather was clear Mom was in a hurry to go.

When we were home accompanied by Guizhi, a sad new came again like a thunder hit upon us: Father was taken away again, went so far as to failed to let us to see him. The neighbors said, when he came back he hid at home and dared not came out. The weather chilled because of cloudiness and raininess for over ten days on end; Father was in thin clothes, and when it was clear he went out and squatted at the fence beside the road to bask. Unfortunately, he fell across the troops he was in passing by and was spotted and taken away again. Someone witnessed that the soldiers tied him up with his hands back to the rail fence of the railway station. I lost Father ever since and no any messages of Father has ever been gotten.

To keep the pot boiling, Mom often took me with her to go to the railway station to collect coal cinders or to go up hills and harrow couch grass for sale, and led life hardly. During the course, as the Anti-Japanese War was getting severer, Japanese plane continually came to Lingjiang and bomb, sometimes several times a day, made the people extremely panic. Later on before long, the impoverishment compelled Mom and I to move to another old and tatty courtyard. I have in remembrance that it was the patio after entering the entrance door, the rooms on both sides were small wing-rooms and the rooms on both sides of the central room were residential rooms. We lived in one of the residential rooms. There was a kaleyard behind and the wing-rooms were kitchens. There was a scruffy plank bed (several planks propped up with two long stools); there was nothing on the bed but a worn-out quilt. The room was rented, for I often heard Mom said, “ the landlady…” Still, our existence was counting upon collecting coal cinders and harrowing couch grass, and life was so bitter that it is unutterable. One of my deepest impressions is that seeing many children round a malt sugar seller, because I was so greedy to eat, so I edged in and had a look with wistful expression in my eyes. When Mom saw this, she hauled me away. I blubbered and cried hardly, “ I want to eat sugar! I want to eat sugar!” and did not want to go; there is a scar in my heart for this as yet. I do not know the reason why Mom never went back to Shanggang Village again. I still remember that during the course Mom took me along with her to accompany the relatives in Shanggang to go to the Yamun of Linjiang to go to the law against Bingzhi’s family (the rich family) twice, maybe for the case that Aunt died in Bingzhi’s house. We came back without hitch the first time, but at the second time Mom and all the adults present were incarcerated in an interim jail. I was worried to cry and shout outside, as to what had happened later, I do not remember. Behind the house we moved in was a drill ground, there were many soldiers without uniform drilling in the drill ground every day. Opposite the drill ground was a spacious courtyard. Heard of that there were soldiers lived there, and we never dare to go there. Often, the courtyard was the bombing aim of Japanese plane. Having in remembrance that once a batch of Japanese planes bombed in waves and the tiles on our house were shattered and flying everywhere and the framework of the house and the furniture rattled. Mom was frightened out of her wits by the sudden strike, holding me in her arms with a rush and went under the bed mumbling in her mouth continuously, “bodhisattva bless!” The planes were hovering above on and on, the place under bed was really not a safe place, so Aunt Landlady hurried to call us out and transfer to the backyard under a big tree beside the vegetable plot. Here I could see clearly the planes hovering just above, sometimes swooped from low altitude and hedgehopped very close to the house. The screaming sound shook off many a tile, and also shaken the souls out of our bodies. The bombing is the most extreme horror I have ever undergone since I was born. The antipathy (ill feeling) it left on me will still make my hair stand on end whenever brought to mind today. It was said that an air-raid shelter mouth had been bombed to collapse and nearly one thousand people were stifled to death, and was very wretched  (deplorable). 

 After the bombing quite a few nonnatives came to Lingjiang to flee from the calamity. One day Mom and I came home after harrowing couch grass and saw the yard had accommodated several male nonnatives frying twisted dough sticks here to sell. Soon made the cold, cheerless and tatty yard looked jollified and prosperous. As the time went, we became familiar with each other. Among them was a man over fifty whose surname was Gu from Anhui. He showed sympathy for us after he leaned our situation and often gave us some leftovers as steamed stuffed buns, bones, meat scraps and so on. Because of the hard life and together with the endless bombing of Japanese plane, the moods were in a state of panic, it was really too hard to get along, so, after a bombing Gu brought Mom and I with him and fled to Yonghe Jiangxi province. At first, we put up a thatched shed in a waste forest out of the town and Gu went to do journeywork. Mom and I lived in the thatched shed. In winter when we were really could not bear, we moved to an old house not far away from where Gu worked and settled down. Here Mom bore Brother. After delivery her whole body was edema because of there was nothing to eat. And the infant was starved to death few days after delivery. Mom dragged her weak body and backed to the previous thatched shed with me. Mom lay in bed and not be able to move, Gu was doing journeywork far away and could not back. Could not bearing the suffering of cold and hunger I blubber at Mom’s bedside. Really could not struggle to get up then Mom sobbed in bed; often, Mom and I wept in each other’s arms… One day, I played outside and felt hungry so I came back and asked Mom for a meal; approaching to Mom’s bedside only to see Mom was flatling lying in bed and immobile. No matter how I shouted, pushed and exerted all my strength to cry, she would not answer. I worried and climbed onto the bed and swayed her head and cried loudly, but there was no response at all, too. I was frightened. I had never seen such situation; I could do nothing but only to shout desperately. The noise of wail gave an aunt (an old lady) who was passing by to the toilet a fright. She followed my sound and entered the house and soon realized every thing. She hurried to ask someone to call Stepfather (Gu) back. Petting my head, she sobbed and said, “pitiful! From now on you have no relatives, how you can survive in the future!” Hearing the words I cried even harder. After Stepfather had been called back we learnt Mom was strangled, for a black gauze kerchief was found, when checking up Mother's body, wrapped tightly on her neck over ten rounds (the gauze kerchief was Mom’s, she used to wrap her head with it). It is remained unknown that if villain commit a crime or if she brought about her own destruction. Poor Mom! When she was dying I was not in the presence of her and no words were left on me! Maybe Stepfather wanted to forget or because of I was too small, he never told me anything. From then on the things about my family, the names of my parents, my own name, age and native place, etc. were all remained unknown. After Mom was died I became a helpless orphan and Stepfather became the only one that I could depend on. After Mom was buried I have never been to Mom’s burial ground and do not know where she was buried as yet. And even more, Mom had faded from Stepfather’s memory. At that time an orphan who was deprived of parents and fleeing from calamity outside would have what inclement way for him to go I completely had no ability to predict. Less than three months since Mom was died Stepfather remarried. She was about forty. Though she had no children with her but she cold-shouldered me. Hence, I prematurely finished my innocent childhood and began to bustle about for existence: Every day I had to go to the barracks with a basket to sell twisted fried dough sticks and do the cleaning and washing, etc. when I was back. And was kept under strict control, could never play jolly as it had been done as when Mom was alive; could never get the love and the warmth that I had got when Mom was alive, and felt nervous all day.

After Stepfather remarried he began to do the business of making and selling the twisted dough sticks and steamed stuffed buns in the thatched shed. Because it was near a barracks the business was good, so it was hard to avoid offending some ones. Once, because of Gu refused to sell the twisted dough sticks and steamed stuffed buns to a wounded soldier on credit, he set fire to our thatched shed in the midnight. The fire was getting bigger and bigger rapidly on the dry couch grass. Stepfather and Stepmother were busy with salvaging the belongings; the tongues of flame rush at my bed but they (Gu and his wife) just would not wake me up. I was grilled to awake by the fire. Seeing the fire behavior I rushed to get off the bed, holding the tattered cellucotton in my arms and rushed out. After the fire we were as poor as a church mouse, the belongings salvaged from the fire were only some tattered bedclothes. Who would care, who would have a feeling of pity for when the prole met a calamity then? We had no alternative but to dwell in a weathered joss house. To earn a living, Stepfather took up a shoulder pole and go to the hills to cut firewood for sale. I went to the barracks to collect swill to feed pigs and some of the swill was kept for myself to eat, and meanwhile begged from door to door. And often dragged for the sour fetid batata pieces soaked in the swill to eat when the hunger was unbearable. After doing like this for some time, Stepmother asked me to shoulder (carry) water and to go to the hill to cut firewood with Stepfather, I was then about six or seven. For my existence I had no choice but toughen my scalp to do the things beyond my power. Because of being too small the physical strength was weak I could only carry two small bundles of thin bavin. The hill path was long; start off early in the morning and still on the way home till dark. Shoulders were crushed reddish swelling and were very pain. Stepmother had to meet me on the way.


To be continued

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