April 22, 2010

A story begun as a child

 I'm always tempted to state the few truths that are mine as universal. Open windows and high places have always tempted  me with their promises of flight, freedom and deliverance. At first glance these two things might seem unrelated, but in the run of my life these two things have not only been recurrent but have culminated to make me what I am today : a teacher. I should perhaps, for clarity's sake, begin at the beginning so that you, my unfortunate listener, may perhaps attempt to make some sort of sense or achieve some form of understanding of the ridiculous circumstances that qualify my somewhat circumstantial existence.

What feels like a little over thirty years ago a diminutive frog of pink flesh was born unto the world, that shriveled little bag of skin, bone, and flesh was I. I was delivered into the arms of that admirable woman, whom I later identified as my mother, and she simultaneously laughed and cried being uncertain whether the seemingly amphibian creature presented to her was a cruel joke or not. She then spoke to me exhaustively in her garbled tongue of Russian, Chinese and English that, in normal conditions, is incomprehensible to all but a handful of her closest friends and her husband, and barely those. Allow me to reassure you that her linguistic peculiarities were not the fruit of her exotic mental illnesses but the result of her upbringing and life choices. Her father, very early in her life, changed his profession from that of Russian sailor to that of a noxious drunkard. He spoke something vaguely resembling Russian that was both heavily accented with his Turkish childhood and more than slightly slurred by hard liquor. Her mother was from a Taiwanese family of refugees in Kowloon, the ghetto of Hong Kong that has since been bulldozered and conveniently sanitized with antiseptic skyscrapers. Thus her curious manner of speech came into being from her parents simultaneously addressing her in all their tongues starting when she was just a newborn babe. This was such a traumatizing experience for the baby that as such she never learned to speak "baby talk", such a traumatizing experience that as a growing girl she spoke no word aloud until she reached the age of fifteen whereupon she was promptly told to be quiet. Rumor has it that the family saying originated in those bygone years: "'Tis better to be dumb than to speak oddly and be mistaken for an insane person". The subtlety of this expression has always amazed me, that and the fact that my family should have the opportunity to keep using it- but I daresay I've never understood the full tenor of its meaning, it must surely too subtle for the likes of me. My father once explained it to me, I dimly recall it had something to do with an American song called "Yankee doodle dandy".

Of course, most of this isn't from memory, most of the information concerning my early beginnings in life are hearsay, and as such are subject to doubt...