Friday, November 13, 2015

馬 (Mǎ) : Ode to the Chinese lady from Montreal

Today I learnt the meaning of in Chinese. Tim's grandma came along with a gift for A. It is the most beautiful pendant. A small carved golden horse set inside an oval transparent stone. When I drove back home with baby A, Tim's grandma was plucking the dried fruit off a small plant in the front yard. She always does that in Fall. She is interested in the plant when no one else is. We always wonder what it is that she makes out of the dried flowers or maybe the seed or fruit inside them.
Tim's grandma must be in her mid-seventies, strong, healthy and active. I try to guess what her life must have been like when she was young. I make up stories in my mind. I try to imagine her as a young girl. Given her fitness at this age I always picture her as a young peasant girl in overalls working happily in a farm all day with a rosy tan on her cheeks.  I'm sure her eyes twinkled then like they do now. Last year when she was here, she knew baby was coming along. This year she is visiting again and remembered to get a special gift for baby A.

A had fallen asleep in the car seat. So I got out of the car alone to greet Tim's grandma. She looked up at me, taking a break from plucking whatever she was plucking and smiled her twinkly smile. Her silky white fringe fell evenly on her forehead and her smile defined her high cheekbones, turning them a light shade of crimson without any makeup at all. She said 'nihao' which means Hello in Chinese.Then she gestured to ask where is the baby. I pointed to the car and gestured back saying she is asleep. This is how we go on usually - gesturing back and forth. Sometimes swinging our arms using actions, in an attempt to convey our meanings. She came up to the car and I opened the door to A's side. She leaned over to take a good look at the baby then beamed at me and gave me a huge thumbs up sign. Then she went back to her plants. I got A out and took her indoors soothing her all the time. My mind was on that pot of hot coffee that I would have after putting her in the crib.

When I came downstairs, I saw the lovely pendant that Tim's grandma had brought for A. It was sitting there on the kitchen island shining bright - an eye catching pendant on a thick red string. Glancing out of the patio door, I saw that she was still there, this time in the backyard working on another plant. So I rushed out to say thank you and tell her how pretty it was. She said . . . Not one but three question marks in my mind. I gave her a puzzled look - no doubt one she's used to by now. Then she raised her foot and seemed to jump a little, bouncing up and down she made noises that sounded like tick tock. She surely couldn't be talking about a jumpy clock, I thought. Then she hurriedly came indoors through the open patio door and wrote something in Chinese on L's school papers that were still on the dining table. All I could figure out was 2014. She kept pointing to that then to the pendant. For a few moments I stared from one to the other in confusion and then my mind lit up in a Eureka moment. 2014 - The Chinese year of the Horse. Of Course!!! I ran a google translate on horse in Chinese and it gave ''. The sweet lady had brought a pendant that matched A's year of birth according to the Chinese zodiac! I was all smiles. Basking in my proud Sherlock Holmes moment, I felt like I had achieved enough to now claim the rights to laze around for the rest of the day reading Jodi Picoult while my family ate take out. Or Not!

Tim's grandma proceeded to tell me more and wrote it down for me as well. I will be taking these sheets to the swimming pool in the hopes of finding a Chinese mommy to translate for me. Also I will now wait for the fresh sizzling pork spring rolls that she will bring for us, hot, right from the frying pan while she's still in her kitchen apron and when the ground outside is covered with snow and the temperature is something indecent. She will hurriedly walk across her long driveway, worried that the spring rolls may turn cold.  She will ring the bell and smile when I open the door. She will then rush indoors past me and go to the kitchen. She will get a container out and transfer the steaming spring rolls to it and give me another quick smile before exiting with her container.
I know I will smile even after she leaves. I know I will never forget her. We don't understand a word of what the other speaks but we understand each other perfectly. .


  1. Found your blog via some shares on FB. Such lovely writing. Looking forward to catching up on your posts Urvashi. :)

  2. Thank you Seena! :) looking forward to exploring your blog in detail too!