Friday, August 4, 2017

Josephine Wang

Josephine Wang

I knew something about you through a gleam in your eye,
A literal gleam in your eye, the kind which says so much with so little,
the same gleam that you had -the only hint on your otherwise inscrutable face-
when you bonked my daugher, your 3 year old great grand daughter, Sofia,
in the head with a big bouncy red ball, 
knocking her off the camera screen,
a scene we've watched over 100 times, 
a hilarious gesture with a hint of the severe, 
but cute somehow, not mean,
something a mother/ or teacher might 
do, one who was sure of her charges,
in control, an iron fist with a soft touch, 
even a caress here and there, 
a lion's roar with well being
the goal, love's dragon
on the wing.  

How else could I know you, who
had been through so much? One way
has been through Wild Swans, a memoir
about 3 generations of Chinese women,
and my shock in finding a culture so different 
from this one, like night from day, so full of hardships 
and horrors, how that must've formed you, and how much
reforming you must've had to do come all the way here.

All told I'd say you escaped to a better place, 
faced a kinder fate. 

Dear Josephine,

You escaped the even worse hardships and horrors of Mao!
And in the process you gained a fantastic son from across the world who shared your name!

But still, not easy, the place from which you came is so far from the ancestors
you worshipped. Hard to imagine what this would be like, 
to think of this family being shut off from you and KungKung 
while you were so young? And before the days of FaceTime too!

You were forced to leave most of the past behind 
for the less certain shores of the future. You learned to "adjust your sails"
as your daughter is fond of saying, (to make "a long story short.")

You once told me something I could never forget;
the reason you only had two children is because 
you only had two hands, and if you had to suddenly flee China, 
you wouldn't have to leave a third child behind. 
That's love, in all it's practical efficiency, 
sacrificing the desire for more children 
so that you could properly take care of the ones you have. 
And it also speaks to the conditions in which you were raised too.
I never heard the story of how you escaped from Maoist China, 
but suffice to say both your children are safe, one in each hand. 
and prosper too, in their own different ways.

You are remembered by the fruits of your love. 
By the fruits of your love you will be remembered. 

This is the other kind of gleam in your eye, the figurative one,
your children, both living beautiful lives of their own, thanks in no small part
to your guidance and care, one hand for each.

And there is also the gleam I see reflected in Genevieve's eyes, 
one I see every day, reflecting, yours, PoPo, like a flame,
and reflecting in your great grandaughters eyes too, like a flame,
fortunate inheritors of your ferocious spirit and self determination. 

And this is how I will remember you, 
the little teacher with the big hand, 
the giant heart, the looming spirit. 
I can see you in the past playing some sport, 
was it hockey? something I would've never imagined, 
circa 1968, the year I was born, and what are you thinking about 
as you play, I wonder, serious as can be, perhaps of your daughter, Ada,
on the brink of leaving for Spain, where little could she have known 
in that uncertain time, she would meet her fortune, 
Joseph of the many colored coat, 
and begin the foundation for her many splendored family
(a future in which I am so happy to have found a supporting role.)

She couldn't have known, she could only keep skating, 
only keep working toward the next goal.  
But from here we can see the victory,
just how grand all those goals would add up to be. 

Good to know you, PoPo. 

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