Toddler Years in Changchun – Neighborhood

In my last post, I mentioned that I lived in Changchun with my grandparents and uncle during my toddler years. The neighborhood, the street, the home are still so vivid in my mind.

It was once a decent sized house. However, when the Communist Party took over in 1949, it was partitioned and assigned to 3 families. One family got the best part of the house, two bedrooms, I imagine; my grandparents got a small bedroom, the storage room, and the underground cellar; another family got the backyard with a shack. Therefore, there was a ‘door’ on our wall, dead bolted on both sides at all times, to separate us from the first family, and one of our windows directly faced the ‘front door’ of the third family.

I wasn’t sure what had happened in the past that caused this great hostility between the first family and us. Even though we used the same main entrance and we were literally living right next to each other, we never paid visits, never exchanged a word, never even nodded or smiled. To this day I still remember that couple and their stony expressions.

The third family consisted of a single mom, her son and his wife, and later a grandson. Since our window was so close to their place, we could hear every word when the young couple quarreled, and every time the kid cried.

Facing another window was a small living quarter. Two very old sisters stayed there, one was blind and the other hunchbacked, and both were devout Buddhists. They were my grandma’s good friends. I remember visiting them often and chatting with the blind lady as she held my hands.

There were many other families around and the kids played together on the street (cars didn’t exist there back then, the most serious accident was to be run down by a bike). I can still recall a few friends from back then, two girls of my age in particular. I wonder where they are now and how their lives turned out.

In the early 1990s, this street and its surrounding area were torn down and rebuilt. Old neighbors were all separated as they seek accommodations with their children or relatives elsewhere. That lovely street and neighborhood was no more, but they always have a special place in my memory.

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