Now, this moment, is the early afternoon of Friday, May 12, 2006. I have been off work for some rest today. Part of the reason was I finished another book last night.
Weeks ago NBA playoffs started and I have been busy ever since. This book was finished at 0:47, Fri, 5/12/06. It was read mostly in front of the TV with lowered sound, and secondly, in bed after the games.
On it I wrote “Life goes…” before it was set into the bookshelf. Now I drew it out and want to make it “Life goes on”. This, I suppose, turns it from being weak to strong, from sad to happy, from transient to eternal, from past to future.
And I feel compelled to tell what it is about, to you, my friends: for it is about living the life, the real life, the true life.
The book is Chinatown family, by Lin Yutang. It was the early half of twentieth century.
The father experienced the hard times of west coast gold rush and ended in New York as a laundryman. He worked extremely hard with the sole purpose of getting his family to America from China. The mother, the boy Tom, and the girl Eva, finally came into New York, and joined the other family members: elder brother Loy the laundryman, his wife Flora the Italian and the second brother Frederick the insurance salesman. The family worked hard to save money for a dreamed restaurant while the boy and the girl grew up helping the business and learning the new country and New York: walking through the parks and bridges, trying to protect the delivered laundry when stopped by boys in the street, picking up laundry with tears from the dirt which was torn by the boys, and dismissing the challenge by schoolmates as a little Taoist “What is the use of fight?” They grew up, wondering about everything around, having all the poverty and difficulties, and experiencing the great love of family. Japan-China war broke out and people in Chinatown were helping their home country by raising money. Tom had his first love with Elsie, the girl who taught the Chinese classics in Chinatown. Flora gave birth to a boy which was the best thing ever happened to the father and mother. The father died in a traffic accident and the mother did not shed a drop of tear in the hospital till the last moment to break down. They opened a restaurant and ran good business with the best food quality. The ambitious Frederick, who was always remote from the family, experienced the love to, marriage with, betrayal by and divorce with a star club girl. He left New York while his heart came back to his family. In the end the family reunited at the event of the mother’s 61st birthday. When they were visiting the father’s grave, they felt as if he was there, happy indeed.
There are things, moments and events which cast and touch one’s heart deeply; I could not provide many of them, but a few:
The moment when the father had enough money for his family to come, the honest, hardworking man, almost broke down in front of his elder son: so many hard years! An exiled man! Now to have his families!
In the evenings when the father finished his laundry work and came upstairs into the living room, the mother had the tea ready, the children prepared washing water, and then family had a moment sitting around.
I was not surprised when coming to the chapter where Tom was picking up the laundry from the dirt in the street in front of the bad boys, my eyes moistened: I felt I was Tom, right there, right then.
The father was happy about everything, the life and the new grandson; he was going to Chinatown after he talked with Tom about his graduation and college education. He took a second look at Tom as he went away. It was the look of the old father, full of hope and confidence in him.Right there I sensed the tragedy. He died. I hope and am sure he was happy.
Tom became silent and remote to Elsie, after so much happiness between them. He had doubt if he, a laundryman’s son, was good enough for such a girl from a scholar’s family. He thought of her so much yet he could not help the situation. Elsie was not sure about herself and things to come and rejected his proposals till she later realized what was to be lost. Seeing Tom in front of her bed in the hospital she asked, why did you leave me? Tom said: I never did.
Flora, a good American and daughter-in-law in the eyes of the father and mother, lived like a Chinese, through all the hardships and happiness with this family. The moment when she was in great pain for the baby’s delivery I was hoping the author not to strike a tragedy – and it was not. On the beach holding the two-year old and watching the others playing in the sea water, she was a beautiful scene.
Flora finally got a ring for herself; her husband said yes firmly to remove her worries. When she was showing it to the mother, she said: I have waited for it so long, Mother. I hope you approve. After being told the expensive cost of 500 dollars, the mother asked her to put it on. Flora slipped the ring on, her smile told of endless satisfaction. Looking kindly at her daughter-in-law, the mother said: It is becoming on you. You deserve it, my dear.
Frederick knew the parents love; he lied to them to get money for buying a car for his club star. After marriage he was not that happy and ambitious man any more. Riding Tom, Eva, Flora, Elsie and the baby to the beach, he again felt the happiness and love of being with his family. He broke down in front of the family when he found his wife was with his American boss when he was sent away for business and earning dollars for the family. When the mother comforted him, he said, leave me alone.
Maybe I will never be able to come back to this book again.