each of us, famous or not, is a role model for somebody

She was of short stature and stout, with a head covered with curly white hair, but her presence and disposition were the most intimidating that the three-year-old me had yet met. Now, in the sixty-three years that she’d been alive before I was born, my grandmother had amassed — sometimes for the better, others for the worse — a myriad of exciting experiences and meaningful memories. Naturally, a woman with so much character and personality seemed to, at first, scare the young me. Looking back though, perhaps my grandma was the strongest female figure I had encountered at that point, and remains so, to this day.

Born in 1934, my grandmother grew up during World War II and lived through China’s Cultural Revolution — two of which were possibly some of the most trying times in modern Chinese history. During the war, she lost her grandparents and all of hr family’s possessions. Yet after the war, at the age of eleven, she managed to talk her way into continuing her education at school, even though her family could not afford to pay the fee of two carts of rice. When the government de-privatized  all schools, she was able to excel in her education — becoming student body president of her school and a member of the city council student board while breaking gymnastics records in the gym. In every way, she embodied the feminist ideal: strong, proud and loud. One of the earliest lessons she had instilled in me was to use my voice: “You have a mouth, so use it to do what it’s supposed to do: speak.” And speak she did, through spoken and written words, about right and wrong, justice and injustice. She had, and still has, an incredibly clear moral compass — never do anyone wrong, always do what you believe is right, and never fail to lend a helping hand.

After graduating, she became a college professor, teaching the Chinese language. Imagine that — a female college professor in the 50s and 60s when even some US schools didn’t let women attend college. And that speaks volumes about her strength, her preservation and her dedication to what she believed in — herself and her goals. All the while, she was financially supporting her own parents and mother-in-law, along with her three children.

Once she retired, she returned to her first true love — art. She began teaching various art courses at the community center, eventually bringing that to the United States when she began visiting my family on a yearly basis after I was born. She taught four to five classes every weekend at the TAMU Chinese School, and it was through art that I formed my first clear memories of her. Each day, she would never fail to sit next to me as I was hunched over a sheet of paper, attempting to draw something of resemblance to a cat. She watched every stroke with pride, and every once in a while, would help steady my hand.  From her, from the countless hours we spent indoors and outdoors drawing anything and everything in sight, I learned to draw fairly well. But it was during those times, where when we sometimes got tired and she would share stories about her life, that I learned what it meant to be a good person, and how to be the best one I could be.

Be proud. Be loud. Be strong. Be someone who, when your time has come, you won’t regret being.

Since I’ve left for college, I’ve started talking to her more and more over the phone. It would sometimes be over trivial things — boys & what happened over the week — or more serious things — schoolwork or my future. Although it’s been more than sixty years since she had walked this path herself, her stories hold immense value that transcends time and space, and her experiences deserve to be heard by all.


[中文版 | Chinese Version]

我的榜样一一我的外婆

   她虽然面容慈祥身材矮小微胖,头上留着一头卷曲的白发,但她的严格要求让幼小的我感到害怕。在我出生前的六十三年里,我的祖母经历过了很多事情,有时是好的,有的是坏的——无数让人难忘的经历和令人刻骨铭心的回忆。很自然,一个性格和个性如此丰富的女人,一开始吓坏了幼小的我。回首过去,也许我的祖母是我在那一刻遇到的最坚强的女性形象,直到今天仍然如此。

   她出生于1934年,正值中国的抗日战争期间,她还经历了中国的文化大革命——在中国近代史上这是一些最艰难的时刻。在战争期间,她失去了祖父母和所有的家庭财富。然而战后,在她11岁时,尽管家里付不起一个学期几十斤大米的学费,她还是设法继续上学。当政府把所有的学校公有化后,她得以继续她的学业,直到大学毕业。她在学习上出类拔萃,成为高中的学生会主席及市学联的成员,在大学里她的成绩是全年级的第一名,同时也是学校体操队和舞蹈队的队长。在各个方面,她都展示了女性的才华:坚强、勇敢和出类拔萃。她教导我的第一件事就是勇敢的说出你的想法,并且敢说敢做。她头脑清晰,做事果断,敢说敢为,而且从不吝啬伸出援助之手帮助别人。

大学毕业之后,她成了一名教授中文的大学教授。可以想象一下,一个50、60年代的女大学教授,当时甚至有些美国的大学都拒绝让女性上大学。这充分说明了她的聪明才智和坚定的理想。从她开始工作以后,她一直赡养父母和婆婆,还教育和抚养了三个子女。

退休以后,她又重拾了她从小热爱的绘画艺术。她开始在社区中心教授各种绘画课程。当我出生后,她就住在我家帮我妈妈照顾我,她也把她的绘画带到了美国。她每周末在塔木中文学校教绘画,我通过跟她学习中文和绘画艺术逐渐了解和喜欢上了她。每天,她总是坐在我旁边手把手的教我如何握笔,如何取景。也常常带我出去写生。我们一起度过了无数美好的时光。在那段时间里,她会给我讲她的生活经历和经验,让我知道了如何做人做事, 她告诉我要自信自强,勇敢,敢想敢做,你就不会后悔。

自从我上大学后,我每周都会与她微信聊天。我们有时会谈及一些琐碎的事情——男孩以及一周发生的事情——或者更严肃的的话题——我的学业和未来。虽然她已经八十多岁高龄了,但她的故事具有超越时空的巨大价值,她的经历值得我去学习。

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6 thoughts on “each of us, famous or not, is a role model for somebody

  1. Moony says:

    Wow, she reminds me a lot of my own grandmother – the woman who survived almost being raped by soldiers during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore as a young woman and the death of her husband leaving her five children to raise single-handedly. Alas, she’s ninety-five this year and I might not get a chance to know about her life stories first-hand much longer. Thanks for this inspiring post!

    Liked by 1 person

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