Friday, April 20, 2007

3: When I was six, my grandmother, who was visiting us, was robbed. She was not mugged, as she was not hurt or threatened with violence. She had been walking me, my neighbour, and my brother (who must have then been four at the time) home in the afternoon after school.

She was a tiny woman, with thin, wiry black hair, dressed in the way many elderly Chinese women do, in a plain jacket buttoned up to the neck in a Mandarin collar, and slightly cropped pants, over black slippers. She grasped a purse the colour of bark, patterned with tiny golden Xs. I remember because I described it for the officer who visited my school afterwards. It's funny how I was so nervous when I heard that the principal had summoned me to her office; my first thought was that II was about to be punished for some offense, even if I could not think of what I had done. I was very surprised; I had not expected the police, certainly not to talk to me, and especially not while I was in class.

Regarding them ... I actually do recall feeling wary and nervous, because they had seemed menacing. They occupied the entire sidewalk -- which, admittedly, is small, in a quiet residential area along a broad road -- and walked in ranks. As they came towards us, their heads bobbled out of unison, and although there were only two or three in the front, I could see there were many of them. Maybe six. A large group that was out of place in a sleepy area. I know now they had been nothing more than a bunch of overconfident high schoolers ... although they had of course seemed impossibly frightening and mature to a first grader; the biggest bullies I had known until then had been only twelve, barely pubescent, though some of them I suppose were somewhat thuggishly overgrown.

One boy with a long neck and gawky frame wore a baseball cap; he's the only other one of the group that I can picture. The one I remember most vividly was a girl,  well-developed in a thin watery grey tank-top, and sporting a rather tasteless curly blond perm typical of the early 90s. She stands out in my memory because she was the one who spat into my face, blinding me and forcing me to turn away while the others grabbed my grandmother's purse and shoved my neighbour and brother to the side.

Shouting, they sprinted off, laughing, their running shoes pounding the pavement. The girl's hair was one massive curly cloud; I had wiped her sticky phlegmy spit from my eye. I had worried there would be something else, like bubblegum, because I had seen her chewing.

My grandmother immediately began crying out, "Help! Help! Someone's robbed me!" but evidently no one had heard or no one had understood, since her pleas were in Cantonese. I now realize just how incredibly quiet it must have been, because no cars passed by that she could wave down; today it's much busier. Curiously, my neighbour, who had been reading a book before we were attacked, seemed to still be reading it. I've wondered to this day whether he had simply resumed it very quickly, or had kept his eyes glued to the page through the entire thing. I think my brother had begun crying, but I don't know for sure.

My parents later scolded her for taking her purse when she was only escorting us home, a short five-minute walk from school to house. She had lost a substantial amount of American dollars, but luckily, she had not been hurt.

She would only be able to visit us once more, when my second brother was born, because of the expensive cost and because of her failing health as the years went by. I would see her in Hong Kong once; of course I never remembered anything from the other time I was there as an infant. We never knew each other well, with the language barrier, and with my preexisting difficulty of personality. She died a few years ago, and my mother flew to her funeral while the rest of us stayed home; my father could not take time off work, the elder two of us could not miss school, and there was no point in my mother taking Wesley to mind by herself. So I did not see my grandmother even in her death.

Having spent so little time together, this is one of my outstanding memories of her -- scared, shouting out, a panicked look in her eyes as she searched for help. It was one of the very few times we shared an emotional connection, even if it was fear. I felt she had been brave, because I would have stayed silent, afraid they would run back in retaliation for raising the alarm; and that was what I did. I was too scared, and incredibly, shy, to shout; my neighbour again, was idly silent and reading; my brother was maybe crying in shock. She was the only one of us reacting, responding. She was trying to catch them; even if she could not do it herself, frail as she was, she would find somebody who could.

Unfortunately, I do not think anyone did. I wish they had.

posted at 7:25:40 pm

J f Z
April 21, 2007   02:21 PM PDT
Wow. That *was* very moving, G. Now I miss your grandmother, too. I'm glad you could recall this, even as scary as it was.

One of things I lament is losing memories of my own grandmother. She was matriarch born in 1908. I still have two of her sisters and the youngest brother alive. They are time capsules of history.
April 20, 2007   08:50 PM PDT
Thank you, Daveman ... although I'm sorry and appalled to hear your father was treated so poorly that way.
April 20, 2007   08:41 PM PDT
That was very moving, and sad. I never got to see my grandmother or my step grandfather when they died. When my step-grandfather died, it was about 3 months after he was buried before my father was told.

My Dad had talked to his sisters in California all that time - no one mentoned his health or his death. Talk about some hard feelings there.

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Glo'ri'a'na, noun:
1. An alternative form of "Gloria."
2. As "Americana" defines itself as artefacts of American culture, "Gloriana" consists of the artefacts of my culture.


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