My “White” Table Cloth

Today something triggered a brain cell and I suddenly thought of my precious white table cloth from another life. At least, it was white for a very short time 25 years ago.

I was in Jilin University then. When not in classes, me and my classmates usually went to classrooms or the library’s big reading room to do self-study. We did study hard sometimes, especially before exams. Other times it was more like social gatherings. Since there were more students than available seats, we had to be diligent in safeguarding our places. I believe this was the purpose of the little table cloth that each of us carried. It signaled temporary ownership of that desk and chair. Randomly laid-out books or notes might be pushed aside, but everyone respected the authority represented by the table cloths.

Above is our old library building, the university has since moved to another location with an impressive modern library. Once inside, we climbed up those steps and entered our beloved big room. Most of the time it was much noisier inside than what you would imagine a reading room should be. In addition to the usual people chattering, there were also the rhythmical sounds of high heels hitting the wood floor, and thumps of people jumping up and down from an elevated section (there were a few stairs on the side but we preferred jumping).

My memory was very good back then, and I could memorize a ton of popular song lyrics and Chinese poems. When I was bored with studying, I would write some beautiful words on my white table cloth. Naturally, when my friends seek me out and sat around to chat, they would read what I wrote, and wanted to scribble a few things that they liked. Long story short, after a while, my “white” table cloth looked like this:


I still have it. I took it out and read some of the things written on it, and couldn’t help smiling. Oh my dear old friends, my fun university life. The table cloth is no longer white, and too bad I can’t wash it, but it is one of my most cherished possessions. I am going to bring it back to my next class reunion, just to see the smiles on their faces!



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