Listen to the work: https://soundcloud.com/yi-chenglin/grandmoms-memories
I wrote this piece for my grandmother. With recordings of my grandma’s talking (in Taiwanese) about her young ages. Through her talking, I hear stories about a woman with binding feet in Taiwan, and her sad memories about common domestic violence in Taiwan 70 years ago. She also speaks two Taiwanese ditties: one is about how women in her age wishing their husbands and parents-in-law to be healthy, and the other is about ancient people's future telling based on fingerprints.
Taiwanese has quite a different tone from mandarins. I usually find this tone is musical. This kind of pronunciation and content of speakings are gradually vanishing because elderly people are gradually disappearing. Through her memories, it is fun to peek the old life-styles and the roles for women in Taiwan. I hope those Taiwanese speaking tones and speaking content with old stories could be preserved through this musical piece.
Lyrics of Grandmas' Memories
0’-17’ During the Winter solstice, everyone is making sweet dumplings, everyone is making sweet dumplings. Women wish their husbands making money, and their parents-in-law living health.
30’-40’ My mother-in-law who has a big-round hairstyle has her feet bound. She cannot go anywhere like mountains or beaches or working.
49’-1’17’ She can walk on the paths between ponds faster than I do. I was fearful of those paths. When I was in my hometown, I was afraid of going anywhere but only working. Those paths between ponds in front of my hometown were scaring. My mother-in-law with the binding feet walked so fast with unstable steps. When I walked with her, I was slower than her. She was in bad temper, and always yelled to people.
1’32-1’41 We didn’t do anything to her, but she still in bad temper. That is her personality. Really bad temper!
1’57-2’00 ‘Bad temper’ becomes her nickname!
2’01-2’10 She has a big-round hairstyle, with a wide face and skinny body.
2’11-2’56 She speaks loudly. I usually wore sports shoes or walked with bare feet, and she wore embroidered shoes (shoes for binding feet). When she wears those shoes, she cannot walk with stable steps. She usually doesn’t work, and cannot go across the river. When she needs to go crossing the river, she needs someone to carry her. I was afraid of the path between ponds, and every time I was there, I feel dizzy. But she can walk there with her binding feet easily!
3’03 -3’24 It was so wired that she lived there (my hometown) for so long. “How can she work?” Asked by my aunt. “How can she work!” Said by my grandma. “Yes,” said my aunt. “With binding feet,” said by my grandma, “How can she do the grass-pulling job?” Asked by my aunt, “She just did the job like that”, answered by my grandma, “really?” “She just did the job with her binding feet”
3’25-3’36 She worked until her daughters were growing up, and then she stayed home and her daughters worked for her.
3’38-3/52 After her daughters got married and moved out, your aunt worked instead, she worked by moving soil with her bare feet. She was raised in a poor family and she was tall and healthy, so when she did the soil-moving job, she actually did great!
4’30-4’41 My parents were not suitable for each other. Every time they got home, they always argued and fight!
4’43-4’50 My mother married a husband, and the husband was gone while fishing, and then she married another one.
4‘51-5’22 “How come with the second marriage, she cannot find a better husband? “ Asked my aunt. “I don’t know. ..The second marriage must be worse! One without a husband and by chance find someone without a wife, so they just got married for that reason. That is the reason they fight every day. I cried for them with tons of tears. As a kid, I saw them fight every day, and cried everyday...I was not helpful. Cannot imagine why I was so unhelpful!
5’26-5’40 Those two people argued and fight. The man yelled and beat my mom. “How come a person likes beating people wants to raise so many kids?” Asked my aunt. “People from the past time are always like that”.
5’43-5’49 My mom was so strong and he stills beats her. I wonder what kind of things make them fight so much?
6’22-7’00 (Fingerprints with) one circle sits at home Two circles, busy around Three circles, worked in a marching band, only those people who are male, not females. Four circles, no worry about food Five circles, get dressed beautifully Six circles, more foods Seven circles, need to work hard Eight circles, being a beggar Nine circles, being successful Ten circles, being a government officer
他那樣走到池塘間⼩小徑比我還會走，那⼩小徑我還不⼤大敢走，我以前住那邊都不敢去哪些地⽅方，只有 ⼯工作，那個型厝寮(家鄉)前⾯面那個⼩小徑我就不敢去，他纏腳這樣扭啊扭的也走得很好，我跟她走 在⼀一起還走輸他呢!..他很愛罵⼈人，⼤大聲嚷嚷的!
也真奇怪他怎麼會住在型厝寮(家鄉)那麼久。阿姨問:『那樣要怎麼⼯工作啊?』阿罵:『那要怎 麼⼯工作齁』，阿姨:『對啊』，阿罵:『纏腳啊』阿姨問:『那樣要怎麼拔草啊?』阿罵:『蛤?』 阿姨問:『那樣要怎麼拔草啊?』阿罵:『他也是這樣拔啊』阿姨問:『是喔』阿罵:『他也是穿 著繡花鞋這樣拔啊!』
阿姨問:為什什麼再娶會娶到不合的?阿罵:哪知?啊再娶⼀一定比較不合啊，再娶就是剛好⼀一個沒老 婆⼀一個沒老公，才會湊合在⼀一起，所以比較會不合。他們那兩兩個整天吵架，我都為他們流了了多少眼 淚淚，當孩⼦子的每天看那兩兩個⼤大⼈人整天打架，只會哭啊，真沒⽤用啊，現在想想怎麼會這樣啊..(笑)
(Fingerprints with) one circle sits at home
Two circles, busy around
Three circles, worked in a marching band, only those people who are male, not females.
Four circles, no worry about food
Five circles, get dressed beautifully
Six circles, more foods
七粒螺七搤壁 Seven circles, need to work hard
Eight circles, being a beggar
Nine circles, being successful
Ten circles, being a government officer