Opening up a dictionary, my index finger moves down the page as my eyes scan the page to find the word love. “Love is a feeling of strong or constant affection towards a person”, this is how a dictionary defines “love”. However, love contains bitterness, tears and a lot unspeakable meanings to me. My mamma has spent eighteen years trying to teach me what love is.
In my earliest memory, there were only two colors in my family: black and grey. Black was when my mamma and my papa broke into wars from squabbles; when my papa raised his overwhelming voice, shouting at mamma; when mamma cried out and was absent from dinner; when I sobbed alone in bed, my head covered by my quilt. Papa’s furious voice made me tremble with fear and mamma’s desperate cry made me heartbreak. Grey was when mamma and papa’s fight cooled down and turned into a cold war, where no one talked or laughed. The fighting held on, in tension. Occasionally a cry from my little cat broke the silence.
One day, after a war with papa, mamma grabbed me and put her arms around me. Tears dropped down her face. She talked about herself in the third person. “Mamma stays in this family just because mamma doesn’t want to leave you alone. Mama doesn’t want your buddies look down on you…” she tried to continue but her throat was stuck with sobs. A few minutes later, she continued:” Papa and mamma are shui huo bu rong (means “things or persons that are irreconcilable, such as fire and water”). You papa is like a tyrant… He never respects mamma’s ideas. Mamma, in this family, is no better than in a prison.” She held me tightly, shedding her tears. My body stayed stiff, but I didn’t want to move.
Later on, I knew that mamma did have many opportunities to break free from her “trap”. Mamma’s father and many other close relatives were in Hong Kong, a much more prosperous place than TaiShan, a city in Canton Province, China, where we lived. Mamma had a chance to move to Hong Kong and find a job there, but maternal love pulled mamma back. She stayed, even though papa only earned a few hundred yuan (approximately one hundred U. S. dollars) per month working as an electrician.
Mamma didn’t divorce because she wanted to protect me from getting hurt emotionally. In China, especially in cities where urbanization is just in germination, people are quite bao shou (means “not open-minded”), and divorce is a shameful thing. Children of divorced parents are teased and humiliated. Mamma didn’t want me to have the feeling of desertion. Though she felt tortured by her situation, she sustained, so that I could have my favored foods when I got home from school; I could get praise from her when I got 100 in my math test; I could have a secure heart to sleep with at night. Having a mamma, I would not be degraded, and I would not have to hide myself when other children who had mothers bragged about their mammas.
In the dictionary, the definition of love is too superficial to describe my mamma’s love. I can’t describe it, either, because my mamma’s love is unspeakable. This “unspeakable” is of its Chinese meaning “zhi ke yi hui, bu ke yan biao”, which means having gratitude to a degree where feelings can only be felt by hearts, but can’t be described by words. What I can definitely say is: maternal love is the most invaluable love in the world. This is what I believe the most.
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