Saturday, May 15, 2010

Uncle Three

Uncle Three, Ba Ba's oldest brother,
the head of the Yeung family,
comes to visit us.
I hide next to the washroom to eavesdrop,
knowing his visit must be related to me
because I will finish primary school soon.
But I wish he would just leave me alone.

Uncle Three says,
"The main purpose of sending a girl
to school
is so she can read and write a letter,
and that is enough.
Any further schooling is a waste."

Ma says,
"It is not a waste.
Girls and boys are the same."

"They are not the same," Uncle Three says.
"What good is it for a girl
to have an education beyond primary school?
She will just be like you, burying herself
in the kitchen,
a yellow-faced, worn-out woman*."

Ma's face turns as red as a rooster's comb.
She jumps to her feet,
like Taishan mountain, solid and strong.
She declares fearlessly,

"I will send her to junior high school,
even if the sky falls on top of me!"
Ba Ba gasps.
Uncle Three grits his teeth.
None of the other Yeungs would dare talk back
to the head of the family.
Turning his anger on Ba Ba,
Uncle Three blames him for failing to teach Ma
to be an obedient wife.
Ba Ba is afraid to say a word.

I wait until Uncle Three stomps out the door.
Then I come out from beside the washroom
and silently hug Ba Ba and Ma.

*yellow-faced, worn-out woman: disrespectful Cantonese term for a housewife

- Tofu Quilt, Ching Yeung Russell

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