“[Even] now, I still feel uneasy [that we might have] encountered trouble during the journey, which would [have] ruined everything. However, time can’t turn back. Wherever, I’ve succeeded, I never regret the choice I made that night.” Grandfather always [says] that when asked about the moving 40 years ago.
Dating back to the 1970s, the Cultural Revolution just passed, my wife Fen, my four children, and I lived in a small country in Sao Dong, Hunan province. Among the four, the oldest Xiao Su was 13, and the youngest Xiao Yin was a baby. Fen was suffering from anemia. Life was terribly difficult for us.
At that time, everyone should do some farm work to earn his or her “work points” to exchange rice and other necessities. [Because] Fen was ill for a long time and children were young, they couldn’t earn any points. What’s worse, even [as] a country doctor and a farmer, I still could hardly support my family. What should I do?
One day, a piece of news [reached me which said] that in Feng Huang, Hunan, there was a newly-opened lead mine recruiting miners and other kinds of workers. “Maybe they need a doctor and a doctor in the industrial factory definitely earn more scores.” The idea floating in my mind excited me, but soon I felt nervous and anxious—should I tell the news to my family?
You know that, the concept “homeland” deriving from the thousands [of] years of traditions bore deep in every Chinese, which made people believe that it was their destiny to [be] born here, live here, and die here. As a doctor, I really couldn’t leave my suffering patients; as a father and a husband, I couldn’t allow my loved ones to experience such [a] long journey and unpredictable future. But as a breadwinner, I had to make a choice.
That night, I wandered around the village. Then I went home and saw others waiting for me to have dinner. Suddenly I noticed Xiao Su’s red bare feet. It couldn’t be more common in those years and almost everyone took it for granted. But I felt my blood rushing to my head, tears welled from the eyes. I realized that if there was no change, the life we led could be nothing but still hopeless. At last, I made up my mind to move the family to Feng Huang.
At the ending of trip, we finally arrived [in] the “promising land”, and luckily the bosses of the mine accepted us.
Time flies. Children grew up and [get] married. And Xiao Su had a baby [first], that was you. And you know the rest.
Now retiring from the factory, I stay at home and enjoy the leisure time. Your granny loves going shopping so much so that she will go out everyday, since she recovered.
That’s the story. As life goes on, the story never ceases.
This semester, I asked students to call the oldest person in their families and to ask that person to tell them a story that they had never heard before. They then translated and told the story in English. While we’re away traveling, I thought I’d let my students tell their stories. To preserve their privacy, I have not credited the authors, but I have gotten their permission to let you listen in. The stories vary—sometimes simple, sometimes Earth shattering, sometimes otherworldly. I have not edited their stories unless I needed to help the flow. My edits are in brackets. [ ] The series began on Jan. 19th. Read them from the beginning here.