July 4, 2011

America, I love you.

What better way to celebrate freedom than to get pumped up about "Captain America: The First Avenger"?
I love America, yes I do. I love America, how about you?
I love America because it embodies one principle that my family has held important in our all lives: freedom.

Last night, my parents and I started talking seriously about our family history. We usually spoke of random parts and such now and then, but this particular evening led me to take extensive notes about a couple of my relatives.

My maternal grandparents acted courageously on, I believe, one of the most crucial decisions of theirs and their descendants’ lives. Here is the story of their escape to Hong Kong.

Family Stories: Part I, or Who Knew That My Frail, Newspaper-Reading, Ever-Ranting Grandmother Had To Go Through This?

Grandpa and grandma were living in Mainland China at the time when the Communist Party took over. Grandpa had heard rumors of what the Communists could do, would do, should someone cross their path. Someone told him of the freedom-less regime that the Communists' would consequently bring with them. He was worried, but felt like he needed to stay because he couldn’t find work in Hong Kong. One day, his son, my uncle, who was four-years-old at the time, came home from school singing, Not for father, not for mother, love only for China. Generations of filial piety were forced out of children's minds and doses of indoctrination were injected. Grandpa made a plan. He would flee to Hong Kong and find a home for his family, who was instructed to stay in China till he sent for them. 

Grandma did all she could to pack up their essentials. When she, her mother-in-law, and her son reached the train station, they were stopped by hoards of Chinese waiting to board the same train to Hong Kong, to freedom. It was as if all of China was waiting to board. The train was already pulled up but its doors were shut and locked. And all of China waited.

And waited. 

And waited.

A police officer nearby noticed Grandma and asked her if she was okay, to which she replied negatively; she was getting dizzy from all the commotion and from the lack of oxygen (or perhaps she felt freedom escaping her). Here, the officer said, I’ll take you to the other side; there’s no one there. They walked over to the next platform, which was empty and my grandma was finally getting fresh air. She looked at the train and saw that one of the doors was ajar. She walked closer.

It was open.

Grandma’s heart started beating three times faster. Was this a sign? As calmly as she could, she walked back towards the crowd and found her mother and son. Come, come quick, she whispered. Her family followed her and they stood in front of the open door. One...two...three. They threw open the door and jumped inside. Grandma dragged her son and her mother-in-law was on their heels. They made it to the middle of the car and they stayed there.

Suddenly, people began to flood the platform. Someone had heard the door sliding open. Punches were thrown, faces were elbowed, groins were kneed: everyone was trying to get on. Afraid that she would be asked to give up her seat, grandma clutched her sweaty son even closer to her heart.

Hours passed, or were they just minutes? The train started to move. Grandma brushed aside her son’s hair, which was plastered with sweat to her chin, and peeked out the window. The train was full, but it seemed that the station was packed still. Fists pounded the outside of the train as if they hoped someone would reach out and grab them, save them from an army marching in from hell. Grandma avoided eye contact.

The train left the station, but Grandma still didn’t feel safe. It wasn’t until they crossed the border into Hong Kong did she take a reassured breath. Grandpa was at the station and Grandma collapsed into his arms. They were safe.

Two days later, trains stopped running and the border between China and Hong Kong closed. Had she try to leave two days later, only God knows for sure how different her life would be. We can only assume that she would have been faced with oppression, violence, and betrayal. She would have faced mankind's worst leaders who promised to lead China to immense prosperity, but instead led her to slaughter and intense poverty. 

She would have faced what my Great Aunt faced. 

That is another story.

End of my non-fiction short story.

And that is why I love freedom. All my siblings and I were born in America because our parents wanted us to be born in a free country. When Hong Kong was given back to China (they were under British rule since the Opium Wars till 1997), my parents flew to America. I remember helping them learn the Pledge of Allegiance and review the Bill of Rights for their citizenship tests. They became citizens when I was in fifth grade. 

Happy Independence Day, America. Keep on fighting for freedom.

Now if you excuse me, I will now spend the rest of the night utilizing one particular gift China gave to western countries: fireworks.

1 comment:

  1. that's an awesome story. i need to do some of my own family research.