C-1 The Laundry Lady-a
My father, Dz Yuen was a man with a great sense of purpose. He was a man dedicated to his role in the Air Force but his real purpose in life was to find ways to make my mother’s eyes sparkle. Sometimes it would be the simplicity of putting a rose under her blanket before she got into bed. Although she always got into bed long after he went to sleep, she would find the flower with a note that would provoke a smile and that special sparkle. My father was a special man of great kindness. He regretfully spent much of his time looking for jobs but he would always return with new ways to remind my mother of how much he loved her.
After my father left for looking for job that morning, my mother Yu Wen She was cleaning house and singing. Cleaning house was something new that she learned after her marriage. Actually my mother never had to do any house chores before she married. She began singing one of her favorite Drum Song of Peking, The Story of the West Wing .
“A sixteen year old young lady
Too lazy to dress up.
Tswei-Ying-Ying lying in bed sluggishly.
Lack of appetite, didn’t call any tea
Lonely and miserable.
cold and cheerless,
Holding her cheek with her tinny skinny hands
With her big eyes half-opened…………. ”
This Song always reminded her childhood. As in her memory: that was a cold spring morning…………
In that big living room. Yu Wen stood there as straight as a soldier in front of her mother, who was sitting in a big wooden lounge chair.
“I said, NO! Didn’t you understand what I’ve just said to you?” Mrs. Lyan said with a rather loud and harsh turn.”Who have ever heard of a young lady like you from an illustrious family, would ever learn to sing ” Drum Song of Peking “, such low class folk song was only for those people in the street who have to work for their daily bread. If our relatives and friends ever heard of this: the Lyan’s only daughter is learning Drum Song of Peking, what would they think about you? How am I going to be able to look for a matched marriage for you?”
Yu Wen was the pearl of the family, but when she violate Mrs. Lyan’s principles, her mother would never tolerate.
“So, I’ll say it again: NO! YOU – ARE – NOT – ALLOWED – TO – LEARN – IT ! ” Mrs. Lyan said: “Wong Ma, escort your lady back to her room. Without my permission, your lady should not leave her room.”
Wong Ma was Yu Wen’s wet nurse, who took care of Yu Wen ever since she was an infant. She loved Yu Wen so dearly as her own daughter.
Wong Ma whispered to Yu Wen softly: “My lady, let’s go back to your room now. Don’t make it difficult for me.”
Yu Wen was going to say something, but when she looked at her mother’s angry face and Wong Ma with tears in her eyes, she withdrew quietly from her mother’s room.
While they were walking to her room, she said to herself: 「Ok! Ok! I am not going to learn it, but I really don’t understand how could “learning a drum song” being related with ” lower one’s identity “?」
Mr. Lyan, Yu Wen’s father, a good husband, but he would do his best to be on his daughter’s side if he is needed.
That evening Mr. Lyan heard the servants were talking about the unhappy incident that happened between Mrs. Lyan and his only daughter, Yu Wen, he went into his daughter’s room instead of going to his wife’s room.
“My girl, I say, you are playing revolution again! And you upset your mother, right?” He said to Yu Wen.
“No! I did not.”Yu Wen was trying to defend herself.
“I was just telling her that I wish to learn the drum song, -The Story of the West Wing-. I didn’t know that could upset my mother that bad and she enumerated all my wrong doings. 」The feeling of wronged her, tears running down her cheeks.
“Pa-pa! You have to think of some ways to help me. I really want to learn it.”
「The Story of the West Wing? Isn’t that the romantic story about Tswei Ying Ying and Jang Jun Rei? I know it. Nice melody! But………….. 」It wouldn’t be hard for Mr, Lyan to figure out why that Mrs. Lyan would not allow Yu Wen to learn it. He didn’t want the happening gets too complicated.
「How about the pouch you promised me? En? It should be done by now. Isn’t it?」Mr. Lyan changed the subject.
「Almost! Pa! But I don’t feel like to do anything anymore after what I got from my mom today.」
Yu Wen was the pearl in Mr. Lyan’s palm. Yu Wen was so precious to him. On one hand Yu Wen’s personality was inherited from him, free and easy. On the other Yu Wen’s exquisite intelligence was from his wife. In addition to this, Mrs. Lyan had painstakingly educated Yu Wen with the Chinese traditional needle works. Yu Wen was a priceless treasure to him. Therefore Mr. Lyan always granted whatever Yu Wen requested .
Mr. Lyan was very proud of his daughter’s needle works. Whatever Yu Wen embroidered were beautiful and unique. He had a handkerchief was embroidered by Yu Wen. He always carry one or two pieces of Yu Wen’s needle works with him. When he had some social active with his friends, he wouldn’t miss any opportunity to show off.
Mr. Lyan was a pipe-smoker and carried a pouch with him all the time. He thought, it would be the best chance to show off Yu Wen’s masterpiece each time when he was loading his pipe. And people will not notice that he did it purposely! Therefore he asked Yu Wen to embroider a pouch for him. Now when he realize his daughter will go on a strike, he gave-in.
“OK! You tell me what’s in your mind? How would you learn it?”Mr. Lyan asked.
“I’m ……wondering if it is OK to employ a Drum Song actress to come to our home to teach me?” Yu Wen thought that would be the best way, which would be complete in both respects.
“You mean to learn it secretly at home, so that our relatives and friends will not know it and also it wouldn’t embarrass your mother too, right? But should we let your mother know about it?”
Yu Wen laughed happily because she knew her father will help her now.
A beautiful young lady came to Lyan’s residence the next afternoon to teach Yu Wen secretly! Whom Yu Wen found out later that she was a very famous Peking Drum Song actress, Jang-Tswei-Feng. May be it was because of that Jang Tswei Feng was famous, therefore Mrs. Lyan accepted the whole idea and did not give Yu Wen any more hard time. Yu Wen remembered after class when Miss Jang was about to leave, she lowered her head and walked backward for a few stapes, then turn around walked quickly out of room. Because she was of humble birth.
—To be continued—