This I Believe

Itha - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on November 19, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: family


The Touch of Family

My great-grandmother greeted my family from her brick “kang”, or bed, as I followed my family into her small, two-roomed mud house for the first time. It was hard to believe I was related to this shrunken, unfamiliar woman who had survived 90-plus years of hardships and strife in a small village of northern China. Coming from a high-tech, suburban life in America, I was astonished to find myself in the midst of what appeared to be a stage set for a 1920’s Chinese movie. The only pieces of technology that permeated the simplicity of the house were a small, black-and-white TV perched atop a worn dresser and a naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling. Not much had changed since my father had stayed here as a child. Here is the window my great-grandmother used to peer out of, waiting hopefully for him to arrive after miles of walking over rolling hills, always bringing a welcome change in her somewhat monotonous lifestyle with his rare visits. Here stands the cupboard my father still remembers, in the exact same corner. This entire house, smaller than my bedroom, is the place that my great-grandmother lived for most of her life with my great-grandfather.

There I was, out of place in an old world I knew nothing about, yet I was received as more than just a guest. My great- grandmother clasped my hand with her frail, bony fingers in an iron grip the entire time I sat beside her. This formed an unbreakable bond: a family bond. Around someone I’d only just met minutes before, I felt a sense of security and contentment that I have never felt among unrelated strangers. I expect I never will. As my family rose to leave about an hour later, my great-grandmother protested, hoping to keep us for a little while longer. As she squeezed my hands, she told me with rivulets of tears running down the paths of her wrinkled face that I was a “good girl”, although she could hardly hear, see, or speak coherently, due to her age and the consequence of a stroke not long before. I found myself getting teary-eyed at the prospect that my first time to meet my great-grandmother could also very well be the last time I would ever see her again.

As the Chinese poet Su Dong Po once said: "但愿人长久,千里共婵娟". To me, this part of the poem means that, although family members may be separated from me by thousands of miles and differ in their cultures, lifestyles, and experiences, we can still admire the same moon at night. Although the memory of my great-grandmother fades with time, this I believe: the touch of her strong hands has transformed me from a great-granddaughter by name into a true family member.