After A Heavy Snow

                                                     By Parker Po-Fei Huang

                                                        A bank of whiteness


                                                           Is all I see. Have I

                                                       tossed away the world

                                                         or the world me? Or

                                                           is it just a single

                                                      moment that I stand on

                                                          a sheer precipice

                                                        with clouds passing

                                                               through me?

                                                      Some mists sweep the

                                                       sky. Some stars elicit

                                                         serenity. I feel that

                                                         I am gathering the

                                                      reflections of a flower

                                                     in the water and that of

                                                     the moon in the mirror—

                                                       no scent, no motion,

                                                        yet I sense eternity.

                                                       I stop breathing lest

                                                       I wake myself. From

                                                      where, of what world,

                                                       have I come here? I

                                                      turn my head and see

                                                     there are only footprints

                                                             that follow me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Janet Huang Chun Memories

Remembering Tenth Uncle

Awakening in the middle of the night,  I looked out the window and saw bright stars over the Maui sky. Immediately my thoughts went to Uncle Parker, realizing that he is now gone…I became sad for several reasons, one of which was that his passing signified the end of an era, one filled with so many difficult pages of China’s struggles during the last century. He, his siblings, and their spouses courageously bridged the gap across the ocean and braved a new culture by sheer determination and hard work. His generation dutifully and steadfastly pursued their aspirations on American soil under difficult circumstances. As we all know, their journeys were, by no means, without major sacrifices. 

Uncle Parker was the tenth of thirteen children. My siblings, Bob, Noeline and I have always addressed him as Tenth Uncle. He was the tallest, the mildest in manner and a dreamer who led a seemingly simple yet highly distinguished life. More than anyone in this scholarly clan, he was the intellectual, the poet, the impossible romantic… the latter attribute being much admired ever since I was a little girl. 

When we returned to our family home in Guangzhou after WWII, I saw him only a few times before he married Auntie Mabel. They soon left for San Francisco. This was around the late forties. Due to the political upheavals in pre-and post-Communist China, there wasn’t much contact between our families after that. He and Auntie Mabel eventually settled in New Haven where he had distinguished himself in the world of academia as a scholar, an educator and a poet, continuing the tradition established by our grandfather, Huang Sung Ling. 

Actually, I didn’t get to know Tenth Uncle until after both my parents have passed away in the late eighties. I started to call on him when I needed counsel. Unlike my Dad who was outgoing but authoritative , or Sixth Uncle who was rigidly intimidating, or Ninth Uncle who was rather reclusive, Uncle Parker was approachable and compassionate. When we talked on the phone,  he was always kind and patient with my 5th grade-level Chinese, he was generous with his time, and he was always engaging and encouraging. He was abreast of everything that was happening in the world, and he was very knowledgeable. 

He had lots of stories to share about our family. He talked about Grandfather whom I knew little about except that he was a super high achiever, formal & severe in his demeanor. Uncle Parker shared much about my parents too. Through him I learned incredible stories about my Dad when he was at the age of my grandchildren today, and of some pretty traumatic experiences during war time in Hong Kong and in China… 

Sometimes he recited his latest poems over the phone, in both English and Chinese, carefully explaining his thoughts behind every word. What I treasure most, however, was his sense of humor which I found refreshing and rare indeed, especially among his contemporaries. Each time after we talked, I would come away feeling lighter and in good spirits; generally a sense of well being would prevail.

I have often thought about the story of the meeting between my father and Uncle Parker when they were reunited in San Francisco after a separation of over 20 years. I was told that when Uncle Parker entered our living room to approach my father, he respectfully knelt in front of his Dai Gor (Eldest Brother) until my father urged him to rise. The remembrance of this encounter never failed to bring tears to my eyes. To think that a full grown man_an accomplished scholar and a highly respected professor_would actually kneel in tribute to his elder sibling in these United States of America, to show his respect… It was a discipline from another world. For better or for worse, this formality will be no more. I salute him for upholding his refine, classic form, for his humility and his meekness which, as Cousin Ben says, was by no means, unmanly in any sense of the word.  

Because of their similarities in temperament, my artist-husband, Douglas would pitch questions to me whenever we found ourselves in a quandary. He would ask, “Now what would Uncle Parker say about this?” Douglas’ admiration for Uncle Parker never failed to move me. We each found his sensitivity endearing, his elegant simplicity inspiring and his integrity honorable. 

I have so much more to say but sadly, it is time to say Goodbye…I simply want to add to the accolades that he has received: ”Thank you Tenth Uncle, for being who you are. I will miss you and I would hope to carry a small portion of your gentle spirit and your infinite wisdom within the depth of my heart. May your creativity and your artistry continue to soar through eternity.”

From Maui, with deepest feelings and utmost respect, 
Janet Huang Chun
January, 2008

No comments: