Monday, September 12, 2011

Mother and Daughter

I have mentioned our ayi here before.  Her name is Dong Mei and we are so very fond of her.  We truly consider her part of our family and in the 15 months she has been with us our relationship has grown into such a sweet friendship.  I've been warned by those with more "china" experience than me that I should keep our relationship as strictly employer/employee and not to get "too friendly" but our hearts and personalities just won't allow that.  We learn something from Dong Mei almost every day about the food, the culture, the language, the country, etc.  It's like having a full time teacher in our house and the learning is all hands-on, interactive fun things.  It's priceless for our family wanting to soak up as much of this country and people as possible.  

One of the cultural differences that is just hard for us westerners to understand is the grandparents role as the primary caregivers in the majority of families.  The one child policy makes it a bit more manageable for those grannies and grandpas. :-)    Dong Mei's daughter, Anna, is a product of this custom and she resides with her grandparents, Dong Mei's mother and father, in the Sichuan province.  Now as a reminder, we live in Suzhou.....the Jiangsu Province.  There is a lot of miles kilometers between this mother and daughter most of the year.  The Chinese usually travel to their home towns during the Chinese New Year holiday (Jan/Feb) and get to see their children in addition to most of their other relatives who've made the same journey.  Dong Mei didn't go this past January but instead made the trip home in August.  She was there for 2 weeks (yes...we survived without her but she was sorely missed).  The wonderful part of her returning (and the main point of this post) is that her daughter came back to Suzhou with her.  Anna was here for about 5 weeks and she came to our apartment with her mom most days.  She is 13 years old and is very shy but we enjoyed getting to know her and as we had so hoped...she felt comfortable in our home after not too many days.  

It was her first time to visit Suzhou and Stan wanted to make sure she saw some of the "sights".  She had studied about the beautiful gardens of Suzhou in school so our first outing was to the Humble Administrators Garden.  We made a day of seeing the garden, getting some lunch and doing a little bit of old Suzhou sightseeing.  She had her camera with her and was taking pictures every 5 minutes or so.  It was fun to see her get so excited about seeing something she had studied.  I equated it to seeing the Liberty Bell as a young girl myself.  It was a bit surreal that I was really looking at what I had read about so many times and she was just as excited as I remember being.  

Anna also wanted to experience swimming....something we take for granted for sure.  She got a suit and some floaties (yes....floaties b/c she had never done this before) and away we went.  Fortunately, the compound across the street from ours has a great pool and a very relaxed visitor policy so we frequented the pool while she was here.  After a couple of days she convinced her mom, Dong Mei to also get a suit and join us in the water. fun to watch them experience these things together and for the first time.  I think that is what I enjoyed most.......seeing them together as mother and daughter.  I was saddened to think through their situation and realized that this was probably the longest time they had spent together since Dong Mei left the Sichuan province over 7 years ago.  Most years it's just a couple of weeks once and maybe twice a year.   

When the time came for Anna to return to her home in order to begin school there was definitely an air of sadness.  Anna and Dong Mei cried most of the day and when I stopped long enough to think about it I cried too.  I hated it for them.  I can't imagine being in that situation and I'm grateful that the LORD saw fit to put me in a culture where that wasn't the norm.  However, I also don't want to be arrogant enough to think that the way "we do it" is the only "right" way.  Anna spoke very little english but she understood a bit more.  We were so glad to get to know her and can't wait for her to return.  On the morning after she left we each found a note that she had written in english and decorated in a 13 year old girly kind of way.  The sweet sentiments that she expressed and the effort it took her to write each one in english were a blessing to us and will be a keepsake for many years.  


Anonymous said...

Now you've got me crying! Sweet story. Think I'll say a prayer for both of them. And of course, you and your sweet family. I love ya!

we are the spencers said...

crying here! beautiful post. you guys are the best!

shirley said...

oh my, I wanted to boo-hoo, then I saw the date that you wrote the post and it was on the day of Brandi's funeral. that was interesting that you wrote it that day and on that subject. But I must say God is Faithful and graceous and I love HIM so and I love you guys. Would like to give you a hug. The boys and I are flying to Madison for Christmas, looking forward to that.

love you guys,