“He is a reliable man, we have decided it!” Chunhua was thrown such cold words [as she fought] with her parents against her arranged marriage. It was in 1946, Chunhua was 16 years old. She [had already given] gentle heart to a handsome boy. They loved each other very much, and they were talking about their romantic marriage. But her parents would break their sweet dream.
When thinking about her parents’ cold and decided words, a tide of cold welled up from her heart. Out of the window, wind was howling. Just as Chunhua’s heart was shouting and crying. She wanted to [act] against her parent’s decision by fasting. But three days had gone; her parents never stopped persuading their daughter to marry some guy whom they chose. Seeing the wedding was growing near, Chunhua became more anxious. She did not know [what] to do. She [thought it over] for a long time. Finally, she made a decision that she wanted to escape before [the] wedding.
“But if I escape from my wedding, Mom and Dad will lose their faces. They will never forgive me and [will] not allow me [to] come back home any more. Moreover, I will break the traditional custom—parents choose a spouse for their kids, and maybe I will be expelled from the village.” When [she] thought about those things, Chunhua had to be conquered by herself. Before the day of her wedding, she sneaked out of her house to have an appointment with her beloved boyfriend. After meeting, two pitiful young people hugged, cried, and made promises to each other that they will be a couple [in the] next lifetime.
On the second day, Chunhua [was] her parent’s daughter. [She] got married with a strange boy. That man looked honest and helpful, but she still asked herself repeatedly, ”What kind of person [is this man]? Is he rude? Is he sexist?” No matter what the man was, Chunhua had no choice. She was a married woman. What she should do was to serve her husband and her husband`s parents. After getting married, Chunhua never allowed her husband to touch her. She always kept a long distance with him. In other people`s eyes, they looked like a couple. In fact, they [were[ still strangers at the beginning of their marriage.
After living with the man, Chunhua found that he was a gentleman. He never forced her to do what she was unwilling [to do]. He respected her very much and undertook all of the housework after a tired farming day. He gave Chunhua all rights that a man should have. Even though Chunhua did not talk with [her husband] if unnecessary, she was moved by the man. He was such a kind man that she [found it] hard to refuse [being] his real wife. After three months, they fell in love with each other. Later, they had seven kids up and down. They lived together happily until the man passed away five years ago. They are my grandparents.
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. [ ] Check back for more. There will be a new one posted each Wednesday through Feb. 23.