Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mother Hen Returns

Shiao Di was waiting for his mother to return from the factory where she worked during the winter months when there was little to do in the fields. She had promised him noodles and shrimp balls if he fed the chickens and hung out the wash. He was getting hungry.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mrs. Lee's Maid Is Quiet

Mrs. Lee thought highly of her inside court servant. There were many times when this matriarch would be working intently on her embroidery and realize later that her maid had silently cleaned her set of rooms thoroughly and with out a single sound. She treasured this quality in the girl from Chai Yi above all else.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mrs. Hsu's Laundry

Mrs. Hsu was normally a very patient woman. It could also be said that she generally liked birds. But when Uncle Tu’s songbirds were loose and at large, the chief laundress at the Door of Hope Girls Home found her sense of calm all a flutter.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Waiting For The Bus

Bao Da Jye was quite concerned to discover that Shiao Li had brought Uncle Tu's beloved and favorite song bird with them on their annual trip to the Northern city. She was not sure what was worse; Uncle Tu's formidable wide range of influence, or that having such a bird along for the trip would create many logistical nightmares for the two country girls. By the time the No. 9 Bus would stop for them, Bao Da Jye would have to hatch a plan.


Wu Feng Road

Wu Feng Road is the name of the street I grew up on in southern Taiwan. As a kid I played in this street with my friends. No matter from what dusty lane game we were engaged in, I would pull away to watch their mothers' congregate at the water pump to wash rice bowls and chopsticks in the evening. Crouching around the well, I would listen in on their conversations, mostly gossip and worrying about their children. From these stolen moments, I learned a lot about the inner workings of my neighborhood. It was a key to their innermost courtyard.

The neighborhood mothers called me "Jing Yu," behind my back, which means gold fish on account of my hair color and because it sounded a little like Jeanne. But to my face they called me Shaio (Little) Ming, part of my proper name, "Ming-An" which means, Luminous Peace. The ladies didn't approve of this name. They would sigh with long winded "Waaaaas" and then "tsk tsk", saying it sounded like a boys name. This was a polite way of saying I was rambunctious, NOT peaceful. Since I was white, these matriarchs and maids never edited their thoughts when I was present. At the pump, they acted as if I was invisible. What I did with the information spilled didn't seem to count, for they knew it would never end up in the family tablets over their ancestral alters. They did not fear me at all. Maybe they should have.

When I grew up and moved away, I missed them terribly. I started painting their faces to ease my homesickness and to keep their thoughts in my head.

The Request

Little Kite approached Mrs. Lee with some trepidation for she had never asked the Tai Tai of her house for anything. She was confident however, that her mistress would approve the expenditure of three kwai for a dumpling for her Number One son.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hair Cut

Little Bau hoped that his older sister
would not choose this moment
to scold him about his unruly hair.

An Interrupted Lunch

A commotion at the back door of the Lee’s courtyard interrupted Shiao Pang’s lunch. When he went to see what was going on, this number three kitchen boy was relieved to see it was only the farmer from across town delivering sacks of rice and not Lee Tai Tai looking for him to clear the table.