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    Lindo Jong

    My daughter wao go to a for her sed honeymoon, but now she is afraid.

    "What if I blend in so well they think Im one of them?" Waverly asked me. "What if they do me e back to the Uates?"

    "When you go to a," I told her, "you dont eveo open your mouth. They already know you are an outsider."

    "What are you talking about?" she asked. My daughter likes to speak back. She likes to question what I say.

    "Aii-ya," I said. "Even if you put on their clothes, even if you take off your makeup and hide your fancy jewelry, they know. They know just watg the way you walk, the way you carry your face. They know you do not belong."

    My daughter did not look pleased when I told her this, that she didnt look ese. She had a sour Ameri look on her faaybe ten years ago, she would have clapped her hands—hurray!—as if this were good news. But now she wants to be ese, it is so fashionable. And I know it is too late. All those years I tried to teach her! She followed my ese ways only until she learned how to walk out the door by herself and go to school. So now the only ese words she  say are sh-sh, houche, chr fan, and gwan deng shweijyau. How  she talk to people in a with these words? Pee-pee, choo-choo trai, close light sleep. How  she think she  blend in? Only her skin and her hair are ese. Inside—she is all Ameri-made.

    Its my fault she is this way. I wanted my children to have the best bination: Ameri circumstances and ese character. How could I know these two things do not mix?

    I taught her how Ameri circumstances work. If you are born poor here, its no lasting shame. You are first in line for a scholarship. If the roof crashes on your head, o cry over this bad luck. You  sue anybody, make the landlord fix it. You do not have to sit like a Buddha under a tree letting pigeons drop their dirty business on your head. You  buy an umbrella. o inside a Catholic church. In Ameriobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you.

    She learhese things, but I couldnt teach her about ese character. How to obey parents and listen to your mothers mind. How not to show your own thoughts, to put your feelings behind your face so you  take advantage of hidden opportunities. Why easy things are not worth pursuing. How to know your own worth and polish it, never flashing it around like a cheap ring. Why ese thinking is best.

    No, this kind of thinking didnt stick to her. She was too busy chewing gum, blowing bubbles bigger than her cheeks. Only that kind of thinking stuck.

    "Finish your coffee," I told her yesterday. "Dont throw your blessings away."

    "Dont be so old-fashioned, Ma," she told me, finishing her coffee down the sink. "Im my own person."

    And I think, How  she be her own person? When did I give her up?

    My daughter is getting married a sed time. So she asked me to go to her beauty parlor, her famous Mr. Rory. I know her meaning. She is ashamed of my looks. What will her husbands parents and his important lawyer friends think of this backward old ese woman?

    "Auntie An-mei  cut me," I say.

    "Rory is famous," says my daughter, as if she had no ears. "He does fabulous work."

    So I sit in Mr. Rorys chair. He pumps me up and down until I am the right height. Then my daughter criticizes me as if I were not there. "See how its flat on one side," she accuses my head. "She needs a cut and a perm. And this purple tint in her hair, shes been doing it at home. Shes never had anything professionally done."

    She is looking at Mr. Rory in the mirror. He is looking at me in the mirror. I have seen this professional look before. Ameris dont really look at one another when talking. They talk to their refles. They look at others or themselves only whehink nobody is watg. So they never see how they really look. They see themselves smiling without their mouth open, or turo the side where they ot see their faults.

    &quot;How does she want it?&quot; asked Mr. Rory. He thinks I do not uand Engli<u>.</u>sh. He is floating his fihrough my hair. He is showing how his magi make my hair thicker and longer.

    &quot;Ma, how do you want it?&quot; Why does my daughter think she is translating English for me? Before I  even speak, she explains my thoughts: &quot;She wants a soft wave. We probably shouldnt cut it too short. Otherwise itll be too tight for the wedding. She doesnt want it to look kinky or weird.&quot;

    And now she says to me in a loud voice, as if I had lost my hearing, &quot;Isnt that right, Ma? Not too tight?&quot;

    I smile. I use my Ameri face. Thats the face Ameris think is ese, the ohey ot uand. But inside I am being ashamed. I am ashamed she is ashamed. Because she is my daughter and I am proud of her, and I am her mother but she is not proud of me.

    Mr. Rory pats my hair more. He looks at me. He looks at my daughter. Then he says something to my daughter that really displeases her: &quot;Its uny how much you two look alike!&quot;

    I smile, this time with my ese face. But my daughters eyes and her smile bee very narrow, the way a cat pulls itself small just before it bites. Now Mr. Roes away so we  think about this. I hear him snap his fingers, &quot;Wash! Mrs. Jong is !&quot;

    So my daughter and I are alone in this crowded beauty parlor. She is frowning at herself in the mirror. She sees me looking at her.

    &quot;The same cheeks,&quot; she says, She points to mine and then pokes her cheeks. She sucks them outside in to look like a starved person. She puts her faext to mine, side by side, and we look at each other in the mirror.

    &quot;You  see your character in your face,&quot; I say to my daughter without thinking. &quot;You  see your future.&quot;

    &quot;What do you mean?&quot; she says.

    And now I have to fight back my feelings. These two faces, I think, so much the same! The same happiness, the same sadness, the same good fortuhe same faults.

    I am seeing myself and my mother, ba a, when I was a young girl.

    My mother—yrandmother—oold me my fortune, how my character could lead to good and bad circumstances. She was sitting at her table with the big mirror. I was standing behind her, my  resting on her shoulder. The  day was the start of the new year. I would be ten years by my ese age, so it was an important birthday for me. For this reason maybe she did not criticize me too much. She was looking at my face.

    She touched my ear. &quot;You are lucky,&quot; she said. &quot;You have my ears, a big thick lobe, lots of meat at the bottom, full of blessings. Some people are born so poor. Their ears are so thin, so close to their head, they ever hear luck calling to them. You have the right ears, but you must listen to your opportunities.&quot;

    She rahin finger down my nose. &quot;You have my he hole is not too big, so your money will not be running out. The nose is straight and smooth, a good sign. A girl with a crooked nose is bound for misfortune. She is always following the wrong things, the wrong people, the worst luck.&quot;

    She tapped my  and then hers. &quot;Not too short, not too long. Our loy will be adequate, not cut off too soon, not so long we bee a burden.&quot;

    She pushed my hair away from my forehead. &quot;We are the same,&quot; cluded my mother. &quot;Perhaps your forehead is wider, so you will be even more clever. And your hair is thick, the hairline is low on your forehead. This means you will have some hardships in your early life. This happeo me. But look at my hairline now. High! Such a blessing for my old age. Later you will learn to worry and lose your hair, too.&quot;

    She took my  in her hand. She turned my face toward her, eyes fag eyes. She moved my face to one side, theher. &quot;The eyes are ho, eager,&quot; she said. &quot;They follow me and show respect. They do not look down in shame. They do not resist and turn the opposite way. You will be a good wife, mother, and daughter-in-law.&quot;

    When my mother told me these things, I was still so young. And even though she said we looked the same, I wao look more the same. If her eye went up and looked surprised, I wanted my eye to do the same. If her mouth fell down and was unhappy, I too wao feel unhappy.

    I was so much like my mother. This was before our circumstances separated us: a flood that caused my family to leave me behind, my first marriage to a family that did not want me, a war from all sides, and later, ahat took me to a new try. She did not see how my face ged over the years. How my mouth began to droop. How I began to worry but still did not lose my hair. How my eyes began to follow the Ameri way. She did not see that I twisted my nose boung forward on a crowded bus in San Francisco. Your father and I, we were on our way to church to give many thanks to God for all our blessings, but I had to subtrae for my nose.

    Its hard to keep your ese fa America. At the beginning, before I even arrived, I had to hide my true self. I paid an Ameri-raised ese girl in Peking to show me how.

    &quot;In America,&quot; she said, &quot;you ot say you want to live there forever. If you are ese, you must say you admire their schools, their ways of thinking. You must say you want to be a scholar and e back to teach ese people what you have learned.&quot;

    &quot;What should I say I want to learn?&quot; I asked. &quot;If they ask me questions, if I ot answer…&quot;

    &quion, you must say you want to study religion,&quot; said this smart girl. &quot;Ameris all have different ideas abion, so there are nht and wrong answers. Say to them, Im going fods sake, and they will respect you.&quot;

    For another sum of mohis girl gave me a form filled out with English words. I had to copy these words over and ain as if they were English words formed from my own head. o the word NAME, I wrote Lindo Suo the word BIRTHDATE, I wrote May 11, 1918, which this girl insisted was the same as three months after the ese lunar new year. o the word BIRTHPLACE, I put down Taiyuan, a. Ao the word OCCUPATION, I wrote student of theology.

    I gave the girl even more money for a list of addresses in San Francisco, people with big es. And finally, this girl gave me, free of charge, instrus for ging my circumstances. &quot;First,&quot; she said, &quot;you must find a husband. An Ameri citizen is best.&quot;

    She saw my surprise and quickly added, &quot;ese! Of course, he must be ese. Citizen does not mean Caucasian. But if he is not a citizen, you should immediately do wo. See here, you should have a baby. Birl, it doesnt matter in the Uates. her will take care of you in your old age, isnt that true?&quot; Ah laughed.

    &quot;Be careful, though,&quot; she said. &quot;The authorities there will ask you if you have children now or if you are thinking of having some. You must say no. You should look sincere and say you are not married, you are religious, you know it is wrong to have a baby.&quot;

    I must have looked puzzled, because she explained further: &quot;Look here now, how  an unborn baby know what it is not supposed to do? And o has arrived, it is an Ameri citizen and  do anything it wants. It  ask its mother to stay. Isnt that true?&quot;

    But that is not the reason I uzzled. I wondered why she said I should look sincere. How could I look any other way when telling the truth?

    See how truthful my face still looks. Why didnt I give this look to you? Why do you always tell your friends that I arrived in the Uates on a slow boat from a? This is not true. I was not that poor. I took a plane. I had saved the money my first husbands family gave me when they sent me away. And I had saved money from my twelve years work as a telephone operator. But it is true I did not take the fastest plahe plaook three weeks. It stopped everywhere: Hong Kong, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hawaii. So by the time I arrived, I did not look sincerely glad to be here.

    Why do you always tell people that I met your father ihay House, that I broke open a fortune cookie and it said I would marry a dark, handsome stranger, and that when I looked up, there he was, the waiter, your father. Why do you make this joke? This is not sihis was not true! Your father was not a waiter, I e in that restaurant. The Cathay House had a sign that said &quot;ese Food,&quot; so only Ameris went there before it was torn down. Now it is a Malds restaurant with a big ese sign that says mai dong lou—&quot;wheat,&quot; &quot;east,&quot; &quot;building.&quot; All nonsense. Why are you attracted only to ese nonsense? You must uand my real circumstances, how I arrived, how I married, how I lost my ese face, why you are the way you are.

    When I arrived, nobody asked me questions. The authorities looked at my papers and stamped me in. I decided to go first to a San Francisco address given to me by this girl in Peking. The bus put me down on a wide street with cable cars. This was California Street. I walked up this hill and then I saw a tall building. This was Old St. Marys. Uhe church sign, in handwritten ese characters, someone had added: &quot;A ese Ceremony to Save Ghosts from Spiritual U 7 A.M. and 8:30 A.M.&quot; I memorized this information in case the authorities asked me where I worshipped my religion. And then I saw ann across the street. It ainted oside of a short building: &quot;Save Today for Tomorrow, at Bank of America.&quot; And I thought to myself, This is where Ameri people worship. See, even then I was not so dumb! Today that church is the same size, but where that short bank used to be, now there is a tall building, fifty stories high, where you and your husband-to-be work and look down on everybody.

    My daughter laughed when I said this. Her mother  make a good joke.

    So I kept walking up this hill. I saw two pagodas, one on each side of the street, as though they were the entrao a great Buddha temple. But when I looked carefully, I saw the pagoda was really just a building topped with stacks of tile roofs, no walls, nothing else us head. I was surprised how they tried to make everything look like an old imperial city or an emperors tomb. But if you looked oher side of these pretend-pagodas, you could see the streets became narrow and crowded, dark, and dirty. I thought to myself, Why did they choose only the worst ese parts for the inside? Why didnt they build gardens and ponds instead? Oh, here and there was the look of a famous a cave or a ese opera. But i was always the same cheap stuff.

    So by the time I found the address the girl in Peking gave me, I knew not to expeuch. The address was a large green building, so noisy, children running up and dowside stairs and hallways. Inside number 402, I found an old woman who told me right away she had wasted her time waiting for me all week. She quickly wrote down some addresses and gave them to me, keeping her hand out after I took the paper. So I gave her an Ameri dollar and she looked at it and said, &quot;Syaujye&quot;—Miss—&quot;we are in Ameriow. Even a beggar  starve on this dollar.&quot; So I gave her another dollar and she said, &quot;Aii, you think it is so easy getting this information?&quot; So I gave her another and she closed her hand and her mouth.

    With the addresses this old woman gave me, I found a cheap apartment on Washington Street. It was like all the other places, sitting on top of a little store. And through this three-dollar list, I found a terrible job paying me seventy-five ts an hour. Oh, I tried to get a job as a salesgirl, but you had to know English for that. I tried for another job as a ese hostess, but they also wanted me to rub my hands up and down fn men, and I knew right away this was as bad as fourth-class prostitutes in a! So I rubbed that address out with blak. And some of the other jobs required you to have a special relationship. They were jobs held by families from ton and Toishan and the Four Districts, southern people who had any years ago to make their fortune and were still holding onto them with the hands of their great-grandchildren.

    So my mother was right about my hardships. This job in the cookie factory was one of the worst. Big black maes worked all day and night p little pancakes onto moving round griddles. The other women and I sat on high stools, and as the little pancakes went by, we had to grab them off the hot griddle just as they turned golden. We would put a strip of paper in the ter, then fold the cookie in half and bend its arms back just as it turned hard. If you grabbed the paoo soon, you would burn your fingers o, wet dough. But if you grabbed too late, the cookie would harden before you could even plete the first bend. And then you had to throw these mistakes in a barrel, which ted against you because the owner could sell those only as scraps.

    After the first day, I suffered ten red fingers. This was not a job for a stupid person. You had to learn fast or your fingers would turn into fried sausages. So the  day only my eyes burned, from aking them off the pancakes. And the day after that, my arms ached from holding them out ready to catch the pa just the right moment. But by the end of my first week, it became mindless work and I could relax enough to notice who else was w on each side of me. One was an older woman who never smiled and spoke to herself in tonese when she was angry. She talked like a crazy person. On my other side was a woman around my age. Her barrel tained very few mistakes. But I suspected she ate them. She was quite plump.

    &quot;Eh, Syaujye,&quot; she called to me over the loud noise of the maes. I was grateful to hear her voice, to discover we both spoke Mandarin, although her dialect was coarse-sounding. &quot;Did you ever think you would be so powerful you could determine someone elses fortune?&quot; she asked.

    I didnt uand what she meant. So she picked up one of the strips of paper and read it aloud, first in English: &quot;Do not fight and air your dirty laundry in public. To the victo the soils.&quot; Theranslated in ese: &quot;You shouldnt fight and do your laundry at the same time. If you win, your clothes will get dirty.&quot;

    I still did not know what she meant. So she picked up another one and read in English: &quot;Money is the root of all evil. Look around you and dig deep.&quot; And then in ese: &quot;Money is a bad influence. You bee restless and rob graves.&quot;

    &quot;What is this nonsense?&quot; I asked her, putting the strips of paper in my pocket, thinking I should study these classical Ameri sayings.

    &quot;They are fortunes,&quot; she explained. &quot;Ameri people think ese people write these sayings.&quot;

    &quot;But we never say such things!&quot; I said. &quot;These things dont make sehese are not fortuhey are bad instrus.&quot;

    &quot;No, Miss,&quot; she said, laughing, &quot;it is our bad fortuo be here making these and somebody elses bad fortuo pay to get them.&quot;

    So that is how I met An-mei Hsu. Yes, yes, Auntie An-mei, now so old-fashioned. An-mei and I still laugh over those bad fortunes and how they later became quite useful in helpich a husband.

    &quot;Eh, Lindo,&quot; An-mei said to me one day at our workplace. &quot;e to my church this Sunday. My husband has a friend who is looking food ese wife. He is not a citizen, but Im sure he knows how to make one.&quot; So that is how I first heard about Tin Jong, your father. It was not like my first marriage, where everything was arranged. I had a choice. I could choose to marry your father, or I could choose not to marry him and go back to a.

    I knew something was nht when I saw him: He was tonese! How could Ahink I could marry such a person? But she just said: &quot;We are not in a anymore. You dont have to marry the village boy. Here everybody is now from the same village even if they e from different parts of a.&quot; See how ged Auntie An-mei is from those old days.

    So we were shy at first, your father and I, her of us able to speak to each other in our ese dialects. We went to English class together, speaking to each other in those new words and sometimes taking out a piece of paper to write a ese character to show what we meant. At least we had that, a piece of paper to hold us together. But its hard to tell someones marriage iions when you t say things aloud. All those little signs—the teasing, the bossy, scolding words—thats how you know if it is serious. But we could talk only in the manner of lish teacher. I see cat. I see rat. I see hat.

    But I saw soon enough how much your father liked me. He <mark></mark>would pretend he was in a ese play to show me what he meant. He ran bad forth, jumped up and down, pulling his fihrough his hair, so I knew—mangjile!—what a busy, exg place this Pacific Telephone was, this place where he worked. You didnt know this about your father—that he could be such a good actor? You didnt know your father had so much hair?

    Oh, I found out later his job was not the way he decribed it. It was not so good. Even today, now that I  speak too your father, I always ask him why he doesnt find a better situation. But he acts as if we were in those old days, when he couldnt uand anything I said.

    Sometimes I wonder why I wao catch a marriage with your father. I think An-mei put the thought in my mind. She said, &quot;In the movies, boys and girls are alassing notes in class. Thats how they fall into trouble. You o start trouble to get this man to realize his iions. Otherwise, you will be an old lady before it es to his mind.&quot;

    That evening An-mei and I went to work and searched through strips of fortune cookie papers, trying to find the right instrus to give to your father. An-mei read them aloud, putting aside ohat might work: &quot;Diamonds are a girls best friend. Dont ever settle for a pal.&quot; &quot;If such thoughts are in your head, its time to be wed.&quot; &quot;fucius say a woman is worth a thousand words. Tell your wife shes used up her total.&quot;

    We laughed over those. But I khe right one when I read it. It said: &quot;A house is not home when a spouse is not at home.&quot; I did not laugh. I ed up this saying in a pancake, bending the cookie with all my heart.

    After school the  afternoon, I put my hand in my purse and then made a look, as if a mouse had bitten my hand. &quot;Whats this?&quot; I cried. Then I pulled out the cookie and ha to your father. &quot;Eh! So many cookies, just to see them makes me sick. You take this cookie.&quot;

    I knew even then he had a nature that did not waste anything. He opehe cookie and he ched it in his mouth, and thehe piece of paper.

    &quot;What does it say?&quot; I asked. I tried to act as if it did not matter. And wheill did not speak, I said, &quot;Translate, please.&quot;

    We were walking in Portsmouth Square and already the fog had blown in and I was very cold in my thin coat. So I hoped your father would hurry and ask me to marry him. But instead, he kept his serious look and said, &quot;I dont know this word spouse. Tonight I will look in my diary. Then I  tell you the meaning tomorrow.&quot;

    The  day he asked me in English, &quot;Lindo,  you spouse me?&quot; And I laughed at him and said he used that word incorrectly. So he came bad made a fucius joke, that if the words were wrong, then his iions must also be wrong. We scolded and joked with each other all day long like this, and that how we decided to get married.

    One month later we had a ceremony in the First ese Baptist Church, where we met. And nine months later your father and I had our proof of citizenship, a baby boy, y brother Winston. I named him Winston because I liked the meaning of those two words &quot;wins ton.&quot; I wao raise a son who would win many things, praise, money, a good life. Back then, I thought to myself, At last I have everything I wanted. I was so happy, I didnt see we were poor. I saw only what we had. How did I know Winston would die later in a car act? So young! Only sixteen!

    Two years after Winston was born, I had your other brother, Vi. I named him Vi, which sounds like &quot;wi,&quot; the sound of making money, because I was beginning to think we did not have enough. And then I bumped my nose riding on the bus. Soon after that you were born.

    I dont know what caused me to ge. Maybe it was my crooked hat damaged my thinking. Maybe it was seeing you as a baby, how you looked so much like me, and this made me dissatisfied with my life. I wanted everything for you to be better. I wanted you to have the best circumstahe best character. I didnt want you tret anything. And thats why I named you Waverly. It was the name of the street we lived on. And I wanted you to think, This is where I belong. But I also knew if I named you after this street, soon you would grow up, leave this place, and take a piee with you.

    Mr. Rory is brushing my hair. Everything is soft. Everything is black.

    &quot;You look great, Ma,&quot; says my daughter. &quot;Everyo the wedding will think youre my sister.&quot;

    I look at my fa the beauty parlor mirror. I see my refle. I ot see my faults, but I know they are there. I gave my daughter these faults. The same eyes, the same cheeks, the same . Her character, it came from my circumstances. I look at my daughter and now it is the first time I have seen it.

    &quot;Ai-ya! What happeo your nose?&quot;

    She looks in the mirror. She sees nothing wrong. &quot;What do you mean? Nothing happened,&quot; she says. &quot;Its just the same nose.&quot;

    &quot;But how did you get it crooked?&quot; I ask. One side of her nose is bending lower, dragging her cheek with it.

    &quot;What do you mean?&quot; she asks. &quot;Its your nose. You gave me this nose.&quot;

    &quot;How  that be? Its drooping. You must get plastic surgery and correct it.&quot;

    But my daughter has no ears for my words. She puts her smiling faext to my worried one. &quot;Dont be silly. Our nose isnt so bad,&quot; she says. &quot;It makes us look devious.&quot; She looks pleased.

    &quot;What is this word, devious, &quot; I ask.

    &quot;It means were looking one way, while following another. Were for one side and also the other. We mean what we say, but our iions are different.&quot;

    &quot;People  see this in our face?&quot;

    My daughter laughs. &quot;Well, not everything that were thinking. They just know were two-faced.&quot;

    &quot;This is good?&quot;

    &quot;This is good if you get what you want.&quot;

    I think about our two faces. I think about my iions. Whie is Ameri? Whie is ese? Whie is better? If you show one, you must always sacrifice the other.

    It is like what happened when I went back to a last year, after I had not been there for almost forty years. I had taken off my fancy jewelry. I did not wear loud colors. I spoke their language. I used their local money. But still, they khey knew my face was not one hundred pert ese. They still charged me high fn prices.

    So now I think, What did I lose? What did I get ba return? I will ask my daughter what she thinks.

    Double face   Up

    A Pair of Tickets

    Jing-Mei Woo

    The minute our train leaves the Hong Kong border aers Shenzhen, a, I feel different. I  feel the skin on my forehead tingling, my blood rushing through a new course, my bones ag with a familiar old pain. And I think, My mother was right. I am being ese.

    &quot;ot be helped,&quot; my mother said when I was fifteen and had vigorously dehat I had any ese whatsoever below my skin. I homore at Galileo High in San Francisco, and all my Caucasian friends agreed: I was about as ese as they were. But my mother had studied at a famous nursing school in Shanghai, and she said she knew all about geics. So there was no doubt in her mind, whether I agreed or not: Once you are born ese, you ot help but feel and think ese.

    &quot;Someday you will see,&quot; said my mother. &quot;It is in your blood, waiting to be let go.&quot;

    And when she said this, I saw myself transf like a werewolf, a mutant tag of DNA suddenly triggered, replig itself insidiously into a syndrome, a cluster of telltale ese behaviors, all those things my mother did to embarrass me—haggling with store owners, peg her mouth with a toothpi public, being color-blind to the fact that lemon yelloale pink are not good binations for winter clothes.

    But today I realize Ive never really known what it means to be ese. I am thirty-six years old. My mother is dead and I am on a train, carrying with me her dreams of ing home. I am going to a.

    We are first going to Guangzhou, my seventy-two-year-old father, ing Woo, and I, where we will visit his aunt, whom he has not seen since he was ten years old. And I dont know whether its the prospect of seeing his aunt or if its because hes ba a, but now he looks like hes a young boy, so i and happy I want to button his sweater and pat his head. We are sitting across from each other, separated by a little table with two cold cups of tea. For the first time I  ever remember, my father has tears in his eyes, and all he is seeing out the train window is a seed field of yellow, green, and brown, a narrow al flanking the tracks, low rising hills, and three people in blue jackets riding an ox-driven cart on this early October m. And I t help myself. I also have misty eyes, as if I had seen this a long, long time ago, and had almost fotten.

    Ihan three hours, we will be in Guangzhou, which my guidebook tells me is how one properly refers to ton these days. It seems all the cities I have heard of, except Shanghai, have ged their spellings. I think they are saying a has ged in other ways as well. gking is gqing. And Kweilin is Guilin. I have looked these names up, because after we see my fathers aunt in Guangzhou, we will catch a plao Shanghai, where I will meet my two half-sisters for the first time.

    They are my mothers twin daughters from her first marriage, little babies she was forced to abandon on a road as she was fleeing Kweilin for gking in 1944. That was all my mother had told me about these daughters, so they had remained babies in my mind, all these years, sitting on the side of a road, listening to bombs whistling in the distance while sug their patiehumbs.

    And it was only this year that someone found them and wrote with this joyful news. A letter came from Shanghai, addressed to my mother. When I first heard about this, that they were alive, I imagined my identical sisters transf from little babies into six-year-old girls. In my mind, they were seated o each other at a table, taking turns with the fountain pen. One would write a  row of characters:Dearest Mama. We are alive. She would brush back her wispy bangs and hand the other sister the pen, and she would write:e get us. Please hurry.

    Of course they could not know that my mother had died three months before, suddenly, when a blood vessel in her brain burst. One minute she was talking to my father, plaining about the tenants upstairs, scheming how to evict them uhe pretehat relatives from a were moving in. The  minute she was holding her head, her eyes squeezed shut, groping for the sofa, and then crumpling softly to the floor with fluttering hands.

    So my father had been the first oo opeter, a loer it turned out. And they did call her Mama. They said they always revered her as their true mother. They kept a framed picture of her. They told her about their life, from the time my mother last saw them on the road leaving Kweilin to when they were finally found.

    And the letter had broken my fathers heart so much—these daughters calling my mother from another life he never khat he gave the letter to my mothers old friend Auntie Lindo and asked her to write bad tell my sisters, in the ge ossible, that my mother was dead.

    But instead Auntie Lindo took the letter to the Joy Luck Club and discussed with Auntie Ying and Auntie An-mei what should be done, because they had known for many years about my mothers search for her twin daughters, her endless hope. Auntie Lindo and the others cried over this double tragedy, of losing my mother three months before, and now again. And so they couldnt help but think of some miracle, some possible way of reviving her from the dead, so my mother could fulfill her dream.

    So this is what they wrote to my sisters in Shanghai: &quot;Dearest Daughters, I too have never fotten you in my memory or in my heart. I never gave up hope that we would see each ain in a joyous reunion. I am only sorry it has been too long. I want to tell you everything about my life since I last saw you. I want to tell you this when our family es to see you in a….&quot; They sig with my mothers name.

    It wasnt until all this had been dohat they first told me about my sisters, the letter they received, the ohey wrote back.

    &quot;Theyll think shes ing, then,&quot; I murmured. And I had imagined my sisters now being ten or eleven, jumping up and down, holding hands, their pigtails boung, excited that their mother—their mother—was ing, whereas my mother was dead.

    &quot;How  you say she is not ing in a letter?&quot; said Auntie Lindo. &quot;She is their mother. She is your mother. You must be the oo tell them. All these years, they have been dreaming of her.&quot; And I thought she was right.

    But then I started dreaming, too, of my mother and my sisters and how it would be if I arrived in Shanghai. All these years, while they waited to be found, I had lived with my mother and then had lost her. I imagined seeing my sisters at the airport. They would be standing oiptoes, looking anxiously, sing from one dark head to another as we got off the plane. And I would reize them instantly, their faces with the identical worried look.

    &quot;Jyejye, Jyejye. Sister, Sister. We are here,&quot; I saw myself saying in my poor version of ese.

    &quot;Where is Mama?&quot; they would say, and look around, still smiling, two flushed and eager faces. &quot;Is she hiding?&quot; And this would have been like my mother, to stand behind just a bit, to tease a little and make peoples patience pull a little on their hearts. I would shake my head and tell my sisters she was not hiding.

    &quot;Oh, that must be Mama, no?&quot; one of my sisters would whisper excitedly, pointing to another small woman pletely engulfed in a tower of presents. And that, too, would have been like my mother, t mountains of gifts, food, and toys for children—all bought on sale—shunning thanks, saying the gifts were nothing, and later turning the labels over to show my sisters, &quot;Calvin Klein, 100% wool.&quot;

    I imagined myself starting to say, &quot;Sisters, I am sorry, I have e alone…&quot; and before I could tell them—they could see it in my face—they were wailing, pulling their hair, their lips twisted in pain, as they ran away from me. And then I saw myself getting ba the plane and ing home.

    After I had dreamed this se many times—watg their despair turn from horror into anger—I begged Auntie Lindo to write another letter. And at first she refused.

    &quot;How  I say she is dead? I ot write this,&quot; said Auntie Lindo with a stubborn look.

    &quot;But its cruel to have them believe shes ing on the plane,&quot; I said. &quot;When they see its just me, theyll hate me.&quot;

    &quot;Hate you? ot be.&quot; She was scowling. &quot;You are their own sister, their only family.&quot;

    &quot;You dont uand,&quot; I protested.

    &quot;What I dont uand?&quot; she said.

    And I whispered, &quot;Theyll think Im responsible, that she died because I didnt appreciate her.&quot;

    And Auntie Lindo looked satisfied and sad at the same time, as if this were true and I had finally realized it. She sat down for an hour, and wheood up she handed me a two-page letter. She had tears in her eyes. I realized that the very thing I had feared, she had done. So even if she had written the news of my mothers death in English, I wouldnt have had the heart to read it.

    &quot;Thank you,&quot; I whispered.

    The landscape has bee gray, filled with low flat t buildings, old factories, and then tracks and more tracks filled with trains like ours passing by in the opposite dire. I see platforms crowded with people wearing drab Western clothes, with spots ht colors: little children wearing pink and yellow, red and peach. And there are soldiers in olive green and red, and old ladies in gray tops and pants that stop mid-calf. We are in Guangzhou.

    Before the train even es to a stop, people are bringing down their belongings from above their seats. For a moment there is a dangerous shower of heavy suitcases laden with gifts to relatives, half-broken boxes ed in miles of string to keep the tents from spilling out, plastic bags filled with yarn aables and packages of dried mushrooms, and camera cases. And then we are caught in a stream of people rushing, shoving, pushing us along, until we find ourselves in one of a dozen lines waiting to gh s. I feel as if I were getting on the number 30 Sto bus in San Francisco. I am in a, I remind myself. And somehow the crowds dont bother me. It feels right. I start pushing too.

    I take out the declaration forms and my passport. &quot;Woo,&quot; it says at the top, and below that, &quot;June May,&quot; who was born in &quot;California, U.S.A.,&quot; in 1951. I wonder if the s people will questioher Im the same person as in the passport photo. In this picture, my -length hair is swept bad artfully styled. I am wearing false eyelashes, eye shadow, and lip liner. My cheeks are hollowed out by bronze blusher. But I had not expected the heat in October. And now my hair hangs limp with the humidity. I wear no makeup; in Hong Kong my mascara had melted into dark circles and everything else had felt like layers of grease. So today my face is plain, unadorned except for a thin mist of shiny sweat on my forehead and nose.

    Even without makeup, I could never pass for true ese. I stand five-foot-six, and my head pokes above the crowd so that I am eye level only with other tourists. My mother oold me my height came from my grandfather, who was a northerner, and may have even had some Mongol blood. &quot;This is what yrandmother oold me,&quot; explained my mother. &quot;But now it is too late to ask her. They are all dead, yrandparents, your uncles, and their wives and children, all killed in the war, when a bomb fell on our house. So many geions in one instant.&quot;

    She had said this so matter-of-factly that I thought she had long siten over any grief she had. And then I wondered how she khey were all dead.

    &quot;Maybe they left the house before the bomb fell,&quot; I suggested.

    &quot;No,&quot; said my mother. &quot;Our whole family is go is just you and I.&quot;

    &quot;But how do you know? Some of them could have escaped.&quot;

    &quot;ot be,&quot; said my mother, this time almost angrily. And then her froashed over by a puzzled blank look, and she began to talk as if she were trying to remember where she had misplaced something. &quot;I went back to that house. I kept looking up to where the house used to be. And it wasnt a house, just the sky. And below, underh my feet, were four stories of burnt bricks and wood, all the life of our house. Then off to the side I saw things blown into the yard, nothing valuable. There was a bed someone used to sleep in, really just a metal frame twisted up at one er. And a book, I dont know what kind, because every page had turned black. And I saw a teacup which was unbroken but filled with ashes. And then I found my doll, with her hands and legs broken, her hair burned off….When I was a little girl, I had cried for that doll, seeing it all alone iore window, and my mother had bought it for me. It was an Ameri doll with yellow hair. It could turn its legs and arms. The eyes moved up and down. And when I married a my family home, I gave the doll to my you niece, because she was like me. She cried if that doll was not with her always. Do you see? If she was in the house with that doll, her parents were there, and so everybody was there, waiting together, because thats how our family was.&quot;

    The woman in the s booth stares at my dots, then gla me briefly, and with two quients stamps everything and sternly nods me along. And soon my father and I find ourselves in a large area filled with thousands of people and suitcases. I feel lost and my father looks helpless.

    &quot;Excuse me,&quot; I say to a man who looks like an Ameri. &quot; you tell me where I  get a taxi?&quot; He mumbles something that sounds Swedish or Dutch.

    &quot;Syau Yen! Syau Yen!&quot; I hear a pierg voice shout from behind me. An old woman in a yellow knit beret is holding up a pink plastic bag filled with ed tris. I guess she is trying to sell us something. But my father is staring down at this tiny sparrow of a woman, squinting into her eyes. And then his eyes widen, his face opens up and he smiles like a pleased little boy.

    &quot;Aiyi! Aiyi!&quot;—Auntie Auntie!—he says softly.

    &quot;Syau Yen!&quot; y great-aunt. I think its funny she has just called my father &quot;Little Wild Goose.&quot; It must be his baby milk he name used to disce ghosts from stealing children.

    They clasp each others hands—they do not hug—and hold on like this, taking turns saying, &quot;Look at you! You are so old. Look how old youve bee!&quot; They are both g openly, laughing at the same time, and I bite my lip, trying not to cry. Im afraid to feel their joy. Because I am thinking how different our arrival in Shanghai will be tomorrow, hoard it will feel.

    Now Aiyi beams and points to a Polaroid picture of my father. My father had wisely sent pictures when he wrote and said we were ing. See how smart she was, she seems to intone as she pares the picture to my father. Iter, my father had said we would call her from the hotel once we arrived, so this is a surprise, that theyve e to meet us. I wonder if my sisters will be at the airport.

    It is only then that I remember the camera. I had meant to take a picture of my father and his aunt the moment they met. Its not too late.

    &quot;Here, stand together over here,&quot; I say, holding up the Polaroid. The camera flashes and I hand them the snapshot. Aiyi and my father still stand close together, each of them holding a er of the picture, watg as their images begin to form. They are almost reverentially quiet. Aiyi is only five years older than my father, which makes her arouy-seven. But she looks a, shrunken, a mummified relic. Her thin hair is pure white, her teeth are brown with decay. So much for stories of ese women looking young forever, I think to myself.

    Now Aiyi is ing to me: &quot;Jandale.&quot; So big already. She looks up at me, at my full height, and then peers into her pink plastic bag—her gifts to us, I have figured out—as if she is w what she will give to me, now that I am so old and big. And then she grabs my elbow with her sharp pincerlike grasp and turns me around. A man and woman in their fifties are shaking hands with my father, everybody smiling and saying, &quot;Ah! Ah!&quot; They are Aiyis oldest son and his wife, and standio them are four other people, around my age, and a little girl whos arouhe introdus go by so fast, all I know is that one of them is Aiyis grandson, with his wife, and the other is her granddaughter, with her husband. And the little girl is Lili, Aiyis great-granddaughter.

    Aiyi and my father speak the Mandarin dialect from their childhood, but the rest of the family speaks only the tonese of their village. I uand only Mandarin but t speak it that well. So Aiyi and my father gossip urained in Mandarin, exging news about people from their old village. And they stop only occasionally to talk to the rest of us, sometimes in tonese, sometimes in English.

    &quot;Oh, it is as I suspected,&quot; says my father, turning to me. &quot;He died last summer.&quot; And I already uood this. I just dont know who this person, Li Gong, is. I feel as if I were in the United Nations and the translators had run amok.

    &quot;Hello,&quot; I say to the little girl. &quot;My name is Jing-mei.&quot; But the little girl squirms to look away, causing her parents to laugh with embarrassment. I try to think of tonese words I  say to her, stuff I learned from friends in atown, but all I  think of are swear words, terms for bodily funs, and short phrases like &quot;tastes good,&quot; &quot;tastes like garbage,&quot; and &quot;shes really ugly.&quot; And then I have another plan: I hold up the Polaroid camera, being Lili with my finger. She immediately jumps forward, places one hand on her hip in the manner of a fashion model, juts out her chest, and flashes me a toothy smile. As soon as I take the picture she is standio me, jumping and giggling every few seds as she watches herself appear on the greenish film.

    By the time we hail taxis for the ride to the hotel, Lili is holding tight onto my hand, pulling me along.

    Iaxi, Aiyi talks nonstop, so I have no ce to ask her about the different sights assing by.

    &quot;You wrote and said you would e only for one day,&quot; says Aiyi to my father in an agitated tone. &quot;One day! How  you see your family in one day! Toishan is many hours drive from Guangzhou. And this idea to call us when you arrive. This is nonsense. We have no telephone.&quot;

    My heart races a little. I wonder if Auntie Lindo told my sisters we would call from the hotel in Shanghai?

    Aiyi tio sy father. &quot;I was so beside myself, ask my son, almost turned heaven ah upside down trying to think of a way! So we decided the best was for us to take the bus from Toishan and e into Guangzhou—meet yht from the start.&quot;

    And now I am holding my breath as the taxi driver dodges between trucks and buses, honking his horn stantly. We seem to be on some sort of long freeway overpass, like a bridge above the city. I  see row after row of apartments, each floor cluttered with laundry hanging out to dry on the baly. We pass a public bus, with people jammed in so tight their faces are nearly wedged against the window. Then I see the skyline of what must be downtown Guangzhou. From a dista looks like a major Ameri city, with highrises and stru going on everywhere. As we slow down in the more gested part of the city, I see scores of little shops, dark inside, lined with ters and shelves. And then there is a building, its front laced with scaffolding made of bamboo poles held together with plastic strips. Men and womeanding on narrow platforms, scraping the sides, w without safety straps or helmets. Oh, would OSHA have a field day here, I think.

    Aiyis shrill voice rises up again: &quot;So it is a shame you t see our village, our house. My sons have been quite successful, selling etables in the free market. We had enough these last few years to build a big house, three stories, all of new brick, big enough for our whole family and then some. And every year, the money is eveer. You Ameris arent the only ones who know how to get rich!&quot;

    The taxi stops and I assume weve arrived, but then I peer out at what looks like a grander version of the Hyatt Regency. &quot;This is unist a?&quot; I wonder out loud. And then I shake my head toward my father. &quot;This must be the wrong hotel.&quot; I quickly pull out our itinerary, travel tickets, and reservations. I had explicitly instructed my travel agent to choose something inexpensive, ihirty-to-forty-dollar range. Im sure of this. And there it says on our itinerary: Garden Hotel, Huanshi Dong Lu. Well, our travel agent had better be prepared to eat the extra, thats all I have to say.

    The hotel is magnifit. A bellboy plete with uniform and sharp-creased cap jumps forward and begins to carry s into the lobby. Ihe hotel looks like an y of shopping arcades aaurants all encased in granite and glass. And rather than be impressed, I am worried about the expense, as well as the appeara must give Aiyi, that we rich Ameris ot be without our luxuries even for one night.

    But when I step up to the reservation desk, ready to haggle over this booking mistake, it is firmed. Our rooms are prepaid, thirty-four dollars each. I feel sheepish, and Aiyi and the others seem delighted by our temporary surroundings. Lili is looking wide-eyed at an arcade filled with video games.

    Our whole family crowds into one elevator, and the bellboy waves, saying he will meet us on the eighteenth floor. As soon as the elevator door shuts, everybody bees very quiet, and when the door finally opens again, everybody talks at on what sounds like relieved voices. I have the feeling Aiyi and the others have never been on such a long elevator ride.

    Our rooms are o each other and are identical. The rugs, drapes, bedspreads are all in shades of taupe. Theres a color television with remote-trol panels built into the lamp table betweewo twin beds. The bathroom has marble walls and floors. I find a built-i bar with a small refrigerator stocked with Heineken beer, Coke Classid Seven-Up, mini-bottles of Johnnie Walker Red, Bacardi rum, and Smirnoff vodka, and packets of M &amp; Ms, honey-roasted cashews, and Cadbury chocolate bars. And again I say out loud, &quot;This is unist a?&quot;

    My father es into my room. &quot;They decided we should just stay here and visit,&quot; he says, shrugging his shoulders. &quot;They say, Less trouble that way. More time to talk.&quot;

    &quot;What about dinner?&quot; I ask. I have been envisioning my first real ese feast for many days already, a big ba with one of those soups steaming out of a carved winter melon, chi ed in clay, Peking duck, the works.

    My father walks over and picks up a room service book o a Travel &amp; Leisure magazine. He flips through the pages quickly and then points to the menu. &quot;This is what they want,&quot; says my father.

    So its decided. We are going to dionight in our rooms, with our family, sharing hamburgers, french fries, and apple pie ?la mode.

    Aiyi and her family are browsing the shops while we  up. After a hot ride orain, Im eager for a shower and cooler clothes.

    The hotel has provided little packets of shampoo which, upon opening, I discover is the sistend color of hoisin sauce. This is more like it, I think. This is a. And I rub some in my damp hair.

    Standing in the shower, I realize this is the first time Ive been by myself in what seems like days. But instead of feeling relieved, I feel forlorn. I think about what my mother said, about activating my genes and being ese. And I wonder what she meant.

    Right after my mother died, I asked myself a lot of things, things that couldnt be answered, to force myself to grieve more. It seemed as if I wao sustain my grief, to assure myself that I had cared deeply enough.

    But now I ask the questions mostly because I want to know the answers. What was that pork stuff she used to make that had the texture of sawdust? What were the names of the uncles who died in Shanghai? What had she dreamt all these years about her other daughters? All the times whe mad at me, was she really thinking about them? Did she wish I were they? Did she regret that I wasnt?

    At one oclo the m, I awake to tapping sounds on the window. I must have dozed off and now I feel my body uncramping itself. Im sitting on the floor, leaning against one of the twin beds. Lili is lyio me. The others are asleep, too, sprawled out on the beds and floor. Aiyi is seated at a little table, looking very sleepy. And my father is staring out the windoing his fingers on the glass. The last time I listened my father was telling Aiyi about his life since he last saw her. How he had goo Yeng Uy, later got a post with a neer in gking, met my mother there, a young widow. How they later fled together to Shanghai to try to find my mothers family house, but there was nothing there. And theraveled eventually to ton and then to Hong Kong, then Haiphong and finally to San Francisco….

    &quot;Suyuan didnt tell me she was trying all these years to find her daughters,&quot; he is now saying in a quiet voice. &quot;Naturally, I did not discuss her daughters with her. I thought she was ashamed she had left them behind.&quot;

    &quot;Where did she leave them?&quot; asks Aiyi. &quot;How were they found?&quot;

    I am wide awake now. Although I have heard parts of this story from my mothers friends.

    &quot;It happened when the Japaook over Kweilin,&quot; says my father.

    &quot;Japanese in Kweilin?&quot; says Aiyi. &quot;That was he case. Couldhe Japanese never came to Kweilin.&quot;

    &quot;Yes, that is what the neers reported. I know this because I was w for the news bureau at the time. The Kuomintang often told us what we could say and could not say. But we khe Japanese had e into Kwangsi Province. We had sources who told us how they had captured the Wug-ton railway. How they were ing overland, making very fast progress, marg toward the provincial capital.&quot;

    Aiyi looks astonished. &quot;If people did not know this, how could Suyuan know the Japanese were ing?&quot;

    &quot;An officer of the Kuomintaly warned her,&quot; explains my father. &quot;Suyuans husband also was an officer and everybody khat officers and their families would be the first to be killed. So she gathered a few possessions and, in the middle of the night, she picked up her daughters and fled on foot. The babies were not even one year old.&quot;

    &quot;How could she give up those babies!&quot; sighs Aiyi. &quot;Twin girls. We have never had such lu our family.&quot; And then she yawns again.

    &quot;What were they named?&quot; she asks. I listen carefully. I had been planning on using just the familiar &quot;Sister&quot; to address them both. But now I want to know how to pronouheir names.

    &quot;They have their fathers surname, Wang,&quot; says my father. &quot;And their given names are  Yu and  Hwa.&quot;

    &quot;What do the names mean?&quot; I ask.

    &quot;Ah.&quot; My father draws imaginary characters on the window. &quot;One means Spring Rain, the other Spring Flower, &quot; he explains in English, &quot;because they born in the spring, and of course rain e before flower, same order these girls are born. Your mother like a poet, dont you think?&quot;

    I nod my head. I see Aiyi nod her head forward, too. But it falls forward and stays there. She is breathing deeply, noisily. She is asleep.

    &quot;And what does Mas name mean?&quot; I whisper.

    &quot; Suyuan, &quot; he says, writing more invisible characters on the glass. &quot;The way she write it in ese, it mean Long-Cherished Wish. Quite a faname, not so ordinary like flower name. See this first character, it mean something like Forever Never Fotten. But there is another way to write Suyuan. Souly the same, but the meaning is opposite.&quot; His finger creates the brushstrokes of another character. &quot;The first part look the same: Never Fotten. But the last part add to first part make the whole word mean Long-Held Grudge. Your met angry with me, I tell her her name should be Grudge.&quot;

    My father is looking at me, moist-eyed. &quot;See, I pretty clever, too, hah?&quot;

    I nod, wishing I could find some way to fort him. &quot;And what about my name,&quot; I ask, &quot;what does Jing-mei mean?&quot;

    &quot;Your name also special,&quot; he says. I wonder if any name in ese is not something special. &quot;Jing like excellent jing. Not just good, its something pure, essential, the best quality. Jing is good leftover stuff when you take impurities out of something like gold, or rice, or salt. So what is left—just pure essence. Ahis is ei, as in meimei, younger sister. &quot;

    I think about this. My mothers long-cherished wish. Me, the younger sister who was supposed to be the essence of the others. I feed myself with the old grief, w how disappointed my mother must have been. Tiny Aiyi stirs suddenly, her head rolls and then falls back, her mouth opens as if to answer my question. She grunts in her sleep, tug her body more closely into the chair.

    &quot;So why did she abandon those babies on the road?&quot; I o know, because now I feel abaoo.

    &quot;Long time I wohis myself,&quot; says my father. &quot;But then I read that letter from her daughters in Shanghai now, and I talk to Auntie Lindo, all the others. And then I knew. No shame in what she done. None.&quot;

    &quot;What happened?&quot;

    &quot;Your mother running away—&quot; begins my father.

    &quot;No, tell me in ese,&quot; I interrupt. &quot;Really, I  uand.&quot;

    He begins to talk, still standing at the window, looking into the night.

    After fleeing Kweilin, your mother walked for several days trying to find a main road. Her thought was to catch a ride on a truck on, to catough rides until she reached gking, where her husband was stationed.

    She had sewn money and jewelry into the lining of her dress, enough, she thought, to barter rides all the way. If I am lucky, she thought, I will not have to trade the heavy gold bracelet and jade ring. These were things from her mother, yrandmother.

    By the third day, she had traded nothing. The roads were filled with people, everybody running and begging for rides from passing trucks. The trucks rushed by, afraid to stop. So your mother found no rides, only the start of dysentery pains iomach.

    Her shoulders ached from the two babies swinging from scarf slings. Blisters grew on her palms from holding two leather suitcases. And then the blisters burst and began to bleed. After a while, she left the suitcases behind, keeping only the food and a few clothes. And later she also dropped the bags of wheat flour and rid kept walking like this for many miles, singing songs to her little girls, until she was delirious with pain and fever.

    Finally, there was not one more step left in her body. She didnt have the strength to carry those babies any farther. She slumped to the ground. She knew she would die of her siess, or perhaps from thirst, from starvation, or from the Japanese, who she was sure were marg right behind her.

    She took the babies out of the slings and sat them on the side of the road, then lay dowo them. You babies are so good, she said, so quiet. They smiled back, reag their chubby hands for her, wanting to be picked up again. And then she knew she could not bear to watch her babies die with her.

    She saw a family with three young children in a cart going by. &quot;Take my babies, I beg you,&quot; she cried to them. But they stared back with empty eyes and opped.

    She saw another person pass and called out again. This time a man turned around, and he had such a terrible expression—your mother said it looked like death itself—she shivered and looked away.

    When the road grew quiet, she tore open the lining of her dress, and stuffed jewelry uhe shirt of one baby and money uhe other. She reached into her pocket and drew out the photos of her family, the picture of her father and mother, the picture of herself and her husband on their wedding day. And she wrote on the back of each the names of the babies and this same message: &quot;Please care for these babies with the money and valuables provided. When it is safe to e, if y them to Shanghai, 9 Weig Lu, the Li family will be glad to give you a generous reward. Li Suyuan and Wang Fuchi.&quot;

    And theouched each babys cheek and told her not to cry. She would go down the road to find them some food and would be back. And without looking back, she walked down the road, stumbling and g, thinking only of this one last hope, that her daughters would be found by a kied person who would care for them. She would not allow herself to imagine anything else.

    She did not remember how far she walked, which dire she went, when she fainted, or how she was found. When she awoke, she was in the back of a boung truck with several other sick people, all moaning. And she began to scream, thinking she was now on a jouro Buddhist hell. But the fact of an Ameri missionary lady bent over her and smiled, talking to her in a soothing language she did not uand. A she could somehow uand. She had been saved for no good reason, and it was now too late to go bad save her babies.

    When she arrived in gking, she learned her husband had died two weeks before. She told me later she laughed when the officers told her this news, she was so delirious with madness and disease. To e so far, to lose so mud to find nothing.

    I met her in a hospital. She was lying on a cot, hardly able to move, her dysentery had drained her so thin. I had e in for my foot, my missing toe, which was cut off by a piece of falling rubble. She was talking to herself, mumbling.

    &quot;Look at these clothes,&quot; she said, and I saw she had on a rather unusual dress for wartime. It was silk satin, quite dirty, but there was no doubt it was a beautiful dress.

    &quot;Look at this face,&quot; she said, and I saw her dusty fad hollow cheeks, her eyes shining back. &quot;Do you see my foolish hope?&quot;

    &quot;I thought I had lost everything, except these two things,&quot; she murmured. &quot;And I wondered which I would lose . Clothes or hope? Hope or clothes?&quot;

    &quot;But now, see here, look what is happening,&quot; she said, laughing, as if all her prayers had been answered. And she ulling hair out of her head as easily as one lifts new wheat from wet soil.

    It was an old peasant woman who found them. &quot;How could I resist?&quot; the peasant woman later told your sisters when they were older. They were still sitting obediently near where your mother had left them, looking like little fairy queens waiting for their sedan to arrive.

    The woman, Mei g, and her husband, Mei Han, lived in a stone cave. There were thousands of hidden caves like that in and around Kweilin so secret that the people remained hidden even after the war ehe Meis would e out of their cave every few days and fe for food supplies left on the road, and sometimes they would see something that they both agreed was a tragedy to leave behind. So one day they took back to their cave a delicately painted set of rice bowls, another day a little footstool with a velvet cushion and two new wedding blas. And o was your sisters.

    They were pious people, Muslims, who believe<u>..</u>d the twin babies were a sign of double luck, and they were sure of this when, later in the evening, they discovered how valuable the babies were. She and her husband had never seen rings and bracelets like those. And while they admired the pictures, knowing the babies came from a good family, her of them could read or write. It was not until many months later that Mei g found someone who could read the writing on the back. By then, she loved these baby girls like her own.

    In 1952 Mei Han, the husband, died. The twins were already eight years old, and Mei g now decided it was time to find your sisters true family.

    She showed the girls the picture of their mother and told them they had been born into a great family and she would take them back to see their true mother and grandparents. Mei g told them about the reward, but she swore she would refuse it. She loved these girls so much, she only wahem to have what they were entitled to—a better life, a fine house, educated ways. Maybe the family would let her stay on as the girls amah. Yes, she was certain they would insist.

    Of course, when she found the place at 9 Weig Lu, in the old French cession, it was something pletely different. It was the site of a factory building, retly structed, and none of the workers knew what had bee of the family whose house had burned down on that spot.

    Mei g could not have known, of course, that your mother and I, her new husband, had already returo that same pla 1945 in hopes of finding both her family and her daughters.

    Your mother and I stayed in a until 1947. We went to many different cities—back t?o Kweilin, to gsha, as far south as Kunming. She was always looking out of one er of her eye for twin babies, then little girls. Later we went to Hong Kong, and when we finally left in 1949 for the Uates, I think she was even looking for them on the boat. But when we arrived, she no loalked about them. I thought, At last, they have died in her heart.

    Wheers could be openly exged between a and the Uates, she wrote immediately to old friends in Shanghai and Kweilin. I did not know she did this. Auntie Lindo told me. But of course, by then, all the street names had ged. Some people had died, others had moved away. So it took many years to find a tact. And when she did find an old sates address and wrote askio look for her daughters, her friend wrote bad said this was impossible, like looking for a needle otom of the o. How did she know her daughters were in Shanghai and not somewhere else in a? The friend, of course, did not ask, How do you know your daughters are still alive?

    So her sate did not look. Finding babies lost during the war was a matter of foolish imagination, and she had no time for that.

    But every year, your mother wrote to different people. And this last year, I think she got a big idea in her head, to go to a and find them herself. I remember she told me, &quot;ing, we should go, before it is too late, before we are too old.&quot; And I told her we were already too old, it was already too late.

    I just thought she wao be a tourist! I didnt know she wao go and look for her daughters. So when I said it was too late, that must have put a terrible thought in her head that her daughters might be dead. And I think this possibility grew bigger and bigger in her head, until it killed her.

    Maybe it was your mothers dead spirit who guided her Shanghai sate to find her daughters. Because after your mother died, the sate saw your sisters, by ce, while shopping for shoes at the Number Oment Store on Nanjing Dong Road. She said it was like a dream, seeing these two women who looked so much alike, moving dowairs together. There was something about their facial expressions that remihe sate of your mother.

    She quickly walked over to them and called their names, which of course, they did n first, because Mei g had ged their names. But your mothers friend was so sure, she persisted. &quot;Are you not Wang  Yu and Wang  Hwa?&quot; she asked them. And then these double-image women became very excited, because they remembered the names written on the back of an old photo, a photo of a young man and womaill honored, as their much-loved first parents, who had died and bee spirit ghosts still roaming the earth looking for them.

    At the airport, I am exhausted. I could not sleep last night. Aiyi had followed me into my room at three in the m, and she instantly fell asleep on one of the twin beds, sn with the might of a lumberjack. I lay awake thinking about my mothers story, realizing how much I have never known about her, grieving that my sisters and I had both lost her.

    And now at the airport, after shaking hands with everybody, waving good-bye, I think about all the different ways we leave people in this world. Cheerily waving good-bye to some at airports, knowing well never see each ain. Leaving others on the side of the road, hoping that we will. Finding my mother in my fathers story and saying good-bye before I have a ce to know her better.

    Aiyi smiles at me as we wait for ate to be called. She is so old. I put one arm around her and one arm around Lili. They are the same size, it seems. And then its time. As we wave good-bye one more time aer the waiting area, I get the sense I am going from one funeral to another. In my hand Im clutg a pair of tickets to Shanghai. In two hours well be there.

    The plaakes off. I y eyes. How  I describe to them in my broken ese about our mothers life? Where should I begin?

    &quot;Wake up, were here,&quot; says my father. And I awake with my heart pounding in my throat. I look out the window and were already on the runway. Its gray outside.

    And now Im walking doweps of the plane, onto the tarmad toward the building. If only, I think, if only my mother had lived long enough to be the one walking toward them. I am so nervous I ot even feel my feet. I am just moving somehow.

    Somebody shouts, &quot;Shes arrived!&quot; And then I see her. Her short hair. Her small body. And that same look on her face. She has the back of her hand pressed hard against her mouth. She is g as though she had gohrough a terrible ordeal and were happy it is over.

    And I know its not my mother, yet it is the same look she had when I was five and had disappeared all afternoon, for such a long time, that she was vinced I was dead. And when I miraculously appeared, sleepy-eyed, crawling from underh my bed, she wept and laughed, biting the back of her hand to make sure it was true.

    And now I see her again, two of her, waving, and in one hand there is a photo, the Polaroid I sent them. As soon as I get beyond the gate, we run toward each other, all three of us embrag, all hesitations and expectations fotten.

    &quot;Mama, Mama,&quot; we all murmur, as if she is among us.

    My sisters look at me, proudly. &quot;Meimei jandale,&quot; says one sister proudly to the other. &quot;Little Sister has grown up.&quot; I look at their faces again and I see no tray mother in them. Yet they still look familiar. And now I also see art of me is ese. It is so obvious. It is my family. It is in our blood. After all these years, it  finally be let go.

    My sisters and I stand, arms around each other, laughing and wiping the tears from each others eyes. The flash of the Polaroid goes off and my father hands me the snapshot. My sisters and I watch quietly together, eager to see what develops.

    The gray-green surface ges to the bright colors of our three images, sharpening and deepening all at once. And although we dont speak, I know we all see it: Together we look like our mother. Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish.

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