The first trip of my life came to an end. After spending a few months in Beijing, my mom had to bring me back to the Northeast region where many challenges were waiting.
While my maternal grandparents in Beijing lived in a quite comfortable 3-bedroom apartment due to my grandpa’s earlier accomplishments, my paternal grandparents’ place in Changchun was not as accommodating. It was a small 2-bedroom flat without indoor toilet. And they had to make a fire in the stove everyday for cooking and heating. Additionally, both my grandparents were working, and they had to take care of their son, my older uncle, who was paralyzed from the waist down. Naturally, my mom didn’t want to add me to their burden.
So my parents brought me to Siping, where the living conditions were even worse. Their place was a shed at best with neither kitchen nor toilet, and there was an open ditch in the front taking in the whole neighborhood’s sewage. Parents often warned their kids not to fall into it when playing outside.
My parents didn’t need to worry though, as I was not even 1 year old. Both of them worked at a semi-conductor factory (need to ask my mom what exactly their jobs involved). The factory had a “daycare” for infants, where the moms could take breaks during the day to feed them. I spent my day there and went home with my parents after the work day was over.
After we got home, I would sit on a bed to play and my parents would cook, which involved going in and out of the front door (the little diesel stove was outside, and dirty water needed to go into the ditch). Every time they came back inside, I would tilt my head to check what the noise was about, and smiled when I saw it was them. My mom said this was her fondest memory from that time.
All was good for a few months, until one day my mom’s friend asked her “aren’t you worried about your daughter in the daycare?” My mom immediately went to check why she should be worried. It turned out the woman who was watching over the little kids brought her own son, who was big and jumping around all the time. It was no small chance that he would land on my little head or do other damages. After seeing this, my mom could not bring me back there again.
There were no other options to keep me in Siping. My mom couldn’t be a stay-home mom even if she chose to, as “the country/party assigned this job to you after investing on your education, how dare you give it up when it is time to contribute?”
With great reluctance, my parents brought me back to Changchun and left me to my grandparents’ care, who gladly accepted the task even with all the foreseeable hardships. Fortunately Changchun and Siping were only a couple of hours apart by train, so I still got to see my parents more than my sister did.