Telling stories with my mother the past 2 days was the perfect way to wrap-up 2007. Mom arrived Friday night on the train from NYC. We ate and shopped all day Saturday, just the two of us and also with other family. Sunday we drove to Toronto to see her college classmates and listened to stories of their staying up late in the residence halls, chatting, partying, etc. (Below are pics of us in Toronto's historic St. Lawrence Market.) When my mom and I were alone, we swapped stories about our daily lives, past and present experiences with family, friends, coworkers, strangers, etc.
The best new story was mom's train ride from the provincial capital city of Wuhan (in Hubei province) during her China trip last fall. The train had sleeper cars that slept/occupied 4 people per compartment. When she entered her compartment, the three others were there - a young couple and an older woman. The woman looked at my mom and said, "Oh, she's an old person." My 63 year old mom was taken aback by this blunt comment, but realized quickly that these 3 had been discussing sleeping arrangements (just prior to her arrival) and who should take the upper and lower bunks, despite the ticket seat/bunk assignment that designated mom to a lower bunk. Mom said she would have been fine on the upper bunk and may have even offered the switch if the other woman (who looked the same age as mom) had not been so rude and forward.
Mom also retold the story of her almost not going to college. She grew up in Taiwan, and her family (parents and 5 kids) was poor. There was not a book (other than school texts) or radio, much less TV, in the house. Mom's father had been a soldier in the Nationalist Party army in China, and her mother (my waipo) had never attended school and never learned to read or write. Grandfather wanted mom to get married after high school, but she wanted to go to college. She gained admission into a political/military academy that provided full scholarship, but her father refused to let her attend days before school started. She argued with him for a long time, and during one heated argument at lunch, he flipped over the table and crashed all the dishes on the floor in anger. Finally, she said HE would have to inform the school advisor about her withdrawal. So together they walked to the school, and she waited outside the office for a long time while her father met with the advisor. When her father came outside, he had changed his mind to let her attend.
We shared many more stories with each other, and even though I was sad when she left on the train this morning, I'm refreshed to greet the new year's adventures and challenges.