Many of our older buds are both mothers and grandmothers, and many more have had mothers and grandmothers. It's only right to devote this post to the mothers and grandmothers who made Best Day what it is today.
I knew it was dicey doing this. Chancy. The man came up to my mother and forcefully hurled a bag at her. We were sitting quietly minding our own business.
“Here.” He shoved it.
She said: “Get away from here!” snarling with venom.
I sized the guy up while looking around. He looked like a mid-level line-backer who played amateur football, but his eyes held a tinge of sadness. His clothes were clean, no torn edges or signs of vagrancy, but I could smell the cheap whiskey oozing from his pores.
He said: “I’ll sell it to you for ten bucks.” We were in an enclosed public place. I scanned and assessed like a military drone. Assessing for danger. Assessing for pitfalls. Assessing for prying eyes or a set up. Hidden cameras were just that, hidden. Cool, grey cylinders secreted in the ceiling. There were commuters, foot traffic and police. I took the leap . . .
“I’ll give you five.” We haggled for a few minutes, the daughter in jeans, the mother in knits and the beseeching, semi-aggressive stranger.
Was anyone looking? Who was watching us? The unknown stranger wobbled slightly on his feet while standing at an awkward stance. His imperfect gait was shaky as he attempted to make the sale. I looked at the merchandise, good quality, perfect size, brand new. I dashed to the newsstand to break a ten, looking over my shoulder at my mother the whole time... watching the man.
Single bills in hand I made the transaction and took the wares. He said: “I love your mother.” Hustling furtively I grabbed my mother’s arm quickly away from prying eyes and a weepy, sentimental, and inebriated stranger. I congratulated myself for this sheer luck. Not out of the woods yet we escaped to our train and headed home. Once there I unwrapped it…
A designer jacket, pure silk in brilliant fuschia.
God is good.
10 Year Old Breaks Record
And that’s exactly true.
Are you interested?
“Mother I want to learn how to swim.”
“You have the rest of your life dear.”
“Mother, I want to learn how to swim, now!”
And before I knew it, not the swimming teacher, but her father had accomplished the job.
The next day at the swimming pool as I yelled, “Stay out of the deep end!” my daughter continued swimming across the entire pool.
I was startled.
I held my breath.
She did the impossible, not only across the pool, but the deep end of the pool.
What happened next, I don’t know. I fainted.
For Michelle Gaither
I lost my baby January 25th and she was buried on January 29th. As you might remember, she found me on the Internet through Best Day and I'm still trying to cope with it. I know she's up in Heaven with the angels. I went to another center for a while, but I liked this one better so I'm glad I came back. When I found my daughter again after so many years, I found out she was a Muslim. I was a Catholic, she was raised as a Catholic, so I had to get used to her being a Muslim. The first time I saw her, I recognized her behind her veil, and she took
me in and consoled me like I was her Mother. She treated me like a saint and in all honestly, she was a saint. And that made me feel better about her passing because I actually did get to connect with her again and I found an apartment that I've been living in for a year now. I want to thank the Best Day workshop for helping me and taking me back in. I really missed it and I'm glad to be back. God bless Best Day and God bless the readers of this website.
Loretta, signing off.
(Read the epic story of Loretta's reunion with her daughter here)
My grandma had bound feet – did you know? She also lived in Guang Zhou in the same house with Old Li and me. Oh no, not my real grandma. My real grandma, I didn’t meet until I went back to the village and by then she was very old. When I was young, I didn’t know her; when I went back, she was already blind, so she never knew me. Gou Ma visited her and brought her food, and brought me along. Gou Ma was already sixty herself when she took me back from Old Li, and living by herself by that point. I never met her hushand, who had passed away by then.
And so, to be clear, the one I call “Grandma” was actually Old Li’s late husband’s mom. I can see how that could sound a little confusing, and am glad you asked! She and I spent many hours together in the house, most of which I spent watching her feet.
Sad for me – no school to go to and stuck inside. I wanted so badly to go to school.
Old Li was out a lot, and her mom was a nurse, or training to be a nurse, so she was out of the house too.
Grandma wouldn’t let anyone see her bare feet, so I had to use my imagination. It was pitiful, painful to imagine. Her four small toes were bent backwards under her feet. Her big toe was really the only shape in her cloth shoe you can see. She wore these shoes that had holes just for the big toes. I don’t know how she took a bath. I don’t know. Maybe she didn’t wash her body? But what I could observe was that she tipped her weight to the front of her feet when she walked.
Traditionally, the ladies had bound feet; poorer people had normal feet. But it was just going out of fashion by my time. Good thing!
I will show you a photo of my grandma next time you visit. I will find it. Back then, there weren’t many photos taken, so ones showing bound feet are very rare. It is they kind of picture they make many copies of and sell in Chinese arts and crafts shops – Americans like to buy pictures like that to decorate their houses. They must think the way Chinese people dressed is cute or special.
You know, rumor had it that Grandma was the first woman with bound feet who came to America. But how she hated it here! Because Americans wouldn’t stop gawking at her. She got here all the way by boat and rode all the way home by boat. The rides must have been unbearable, so the ridicule must have been even worse.
Grandma’s feet are really the main thing I remember about her. And I remember he singing. She sang to herself, staring into a book. You can listen if you want but it was intended for herself. Besides that, she spent her time reading the paper, listening to the radio (which had been invented by then and was pretty popular), and sang along to Chinese opera songs.
The Li family had a live-in maid. They had enough money. So Grandma just sat at home. And I was told to just sit at home. With no books to read. They said to me, “Girls go to school for what? You tell me?! Not like you will make money any way.” That is what Old Li said to me. I was very mad at for saying that but what could I do?
Meanwhile, Grandma would try to convince me to be a Chinese opera singer so she could go to shows for free. But I didn’t want to. I couldn’t tell if she was just trying to be funny, because she mentioned the idea often. If so, I didn’t think it was funny. I didn’t even like Chinese opera. I just couldn’t get into it.
What I loved was movies because they are about real life. In Chinese opera, you wave a flag around which symbolizes this or that, but it is not true. I didn’t understand. And besides, I was too short. I couldn’t see past people’s heads. They built low temporary scaffolds out of bamboo and threw wood planks across them. That was it – simple way of making many rows of benches, wasn’t it? The problem for me was that they were all the same height.
When I was twelve, Gou Ma brought me back to the village, where I finally got my wish – to go to school! Can you imagine my happiness? The sad part was, it did not even last a whole year. The teacher was old, and taught all the same classes in the same room. She tried to teach everything, but really only knew a little of everything. Now one good thing was, after I got out of classes in the afternoon, I sometimes went with other girls to the movies. Not too many times, but every time the movies gave me a mixture of real feelings, and I liked that.
Years later, when the Japanese came to fight in Hong Kong during the war, I went to movies a lot. There was nothing to do during wartime. And because of the war, movies got very cheap, only five cents. Your grandpa had a steady income so we had enough to eat and a little extra to spend. You ask why I had this kind of freedom during the war, why I didn’t have to hide? You see, the Japanese kids were dropping bombs, yes, but just once in a while. You were as safe in the movie theater as you would be at home. We were ok, so why sit at home and be scared? You need entertainment to have a meaningful life. And for me, movies were very exhilarating. Of course, when peacetime came, life was easier in a sense. At that point the family grew, and sometimes we brought all the kids to the movies including you mom when she was little.
A lot to tell. A lot happened. As I start to think back, one thing blends into another, probably hard for you to understand, right? But you are patient. You ask me. You are very thoughtful. You want to know. This kind of deep, deep memory doesn’t usually come up when you are just talking about daily routines.
Things My Mother Said To Me
My mother was a short giant of an "absolutely no nonsense" women whose self proclaimed position of boss was never challenged. She would tell anyone (no matter the time and place) to do something, and what she demanded was done without resistance. For instance, I've seen her break up many corner crap games; likewise, I can recall several instances when she actually went into the streets' gambling den and told the hardened card players to curtail the vile noise that the entire street could hear. And they complied.
She did not waste words on idle gossip, trivial matters or to hear herself talk; to the contrary, when she spoke it was for a relevant reason, and those who were within hearing range definitely listened. Including myself. I listened to her – partly, because I did not want to encounter her anger, but mainly because of my respect for her and her information, advise guidance, dictates, etc. that she dispensed.
Over the years, in her discussions that she has conducted with me, she has issued mandatory mandates, rendered perceptions, engaged in serious discussions and has given me tons of well needed counseling. I will never forget those sessions. She could be quite the disciplinarian. I can remember coming into the house after a pleasant day of playing and immediately being the recipient of the whipping that I was promised earlier, a whipping that I had escaped my mind.
Between the painful licks from the belt and my pronouncements of I-ain't-gonna-do-it-no-more, my mother would say didn't I tell you not to? Those whippings hurt, but there was something called a "Good Talking To" that would have me sobbing from the soul, boo-hooing with pain. The "Good Talking To" would consist of phrases like "I'm ashamed of you" and "You know better."
I remember my mother religiously lining each of my four siblings up and staying in a stern voice "What do you say when you speak to a grown person?" We would chime "Yes Sir" "Yes Ma'am." And during the holidays when children were required to say poems (which were called pieces) in church, she would line us up (my four siblings) and urge us to use our hands, eyes, hesitation, pronunciation and enunciation for the best presentation effect.
My mother also had a humorous side. When I received the award for being the top student in my sixth grade special education class, she said "If Norman is the smartest kid in the class, God help the rest." Before breaking out into a prolongued uncontrollable laugh. Whenever she had to inform me about something she knew would be disappointing news for me, she used a love filled gently voice. "Sissy's house caught fire last night. Sissy is dead." Sissy was the first girl that I had ever been romantically interested in. I have never forgotten her untimely death; however, there were more romantic interests.
Once, when I was a teenager, she looked me in the eyes and said, "I know what your problem is – girls." And she was correct. A few years later, when a serious heart break had me in a state of depression, she said to me, "There will be other girls." She was right. When I became older and seemingly a veteran of heartbreaks and homeless separations, my mother adamantly said "Get your own place." She was right.
When I left my parents' home on the morning of July 5, 1965 to report to the army, she urged me to hold my head up and a year and a half later when I came home on leave, she touched me and said with a tone of relief in her voice, "You came home." During what I surmise was my mid-life crisis era, my mom constantly told me to not throw away my gifts.
And when I told her about a dream I had about her father, mother, and uncle, she said that they were urging me to keep the faith. During a period in my life when nothing was going right and I was making wrong decisions, my mother would constantly tell me to not discard my gifts. When I told her that I had had a dream about her parents and her father's brother, she said "They are telling you that you can do it." If one did a wonderful deed, my mother would not necessarily congratulate them, as she felt that they were doing what was expected of them.
So whenever she told me "You did a good job," it meant a lot to me and encourages me to strive as hard as I possibly could. There are of course many other things that my mother said to me, and everything she said to me was in love, and if the tone of her delivers were sometimes harsh, it was merely to display "Tough Love" and to leave an everlasting message.
Happy Belated Mothers' Day from The Best Day of My Life So Far!
Curated by Caitlin Cieri
Curated by Caitlin Cieri