On the sunny Sunday afternoon, I sit on Granny's balcony, breathing the warm winter air. Wanting to remember it all, I begin drawing a sketch of what I saw. Every time when we return to Chi-du, it was always a whirlwind visit. This time I want to discard the manacles of time and stay there without hurrying to my next destination.
Despite the rising number of apartments, I can still see the train station in the distance. The familiar locomotive sounds remind me of my childhood when I could hear their whistles at dark nights. If we zoom in, the back of the station, which is nearer, has a new second-floor, and it blocks the sky. Right in front of Granny's are the classrooms of Min-der Junior High School. Somehow I make them look like the tall residential buildings in big cities. I can't help but color the sketch with my city feel. The lawn in the back of the school building used to be where Granny planted vegetables. On the fences that separate the school and the road hang some tattered towels of the beauty salon on the ground floor of Granny's apartment. The middle-aged beautician are in a rush to dry them on such a fine day. The street is empty most of the time, with one or two passers-by strolling. When I see my eldest aunt taking a walk after lunch, I greet her from the balcony enthusiastically.
Since the day of Granny's death, I've got into the habit of waiting on the balcony. Seeing cars approaching, I wonder if it's relatives or friends that come to express condolences. When my great aunt's cotton white hair emerges from the car and she slowly descends, I can somehow experience what Granny feels each time visitors come. On the Sunday afternoon, some men and women, not sure if they have come to the right place, stand downstairs. They turn out to be Granny's neighbors. The apartment suddenly becomes a very popular parlor in the quiet neighborhood.
I draw and listen to my elder relatives chat as they fold paper lotuses. They chat about everything, their voices being so soothing. One of the neighbors says, "I haven't seen Granny in the market for long." Well, Granny hadn't been unable to go out with her health deteriorating over the past few months. Their conversation gives me a peek into a whole new world of Granny's life. I used to think that she didn't have friends. It is not until now that I realize she does, which relieves my worries. I bet in her current world, there must be many relatives and friends waiting for her. The neighbors do not stay long, but their warmth lingers even after they leave.
A few nights ago, the moment I walked onto the balcony, tears dropped like a turned-on faucet. The boys followed right after me. I told them how Granny waved goodbye to us from the balcony. Then I choked. Kai asked, "What's wrong?" I said, "I am very sad." Von said understandingly, "Because of Granny right?" Though I felt sad, I know I have children's shoulders to lean on.
Then another child comes on Sunday. The four-year-old Xin accompanies me as I sketch. She says to me, "I love the scenery here." I tell her that it's what Granny saw too. I share Granny's stories with her, while she heals me. These are all my little angels sent by Granny.
Now when I see Granny-like grannies on the roads, I can't take my eyes off them. I guess this is a way for me to remember my granny. Sometimes I am still kind of sentimental. My happiness is like fermented batter. Though it looks fat on the outside, it is bruised easily if someone touches it lightly. There's nothing bad about it actually....