Dreams are the means by which the deepest places of one’s soul, and even the associations and emotional attachments which one is not even aware of, are exposed and laid bare. Dreams tell you about places and people you never thought about before.
Last night I dreamed that I was standing by the roadside hailing a rickshaw. One came by, pulled by a fat man with a big, round belly. He was middle-aged, with a dark face. He put the rickshaw shafts down and asked me: “Where do you want to go?” He spoke to me as if to a child, and so I got the impression that I must be very young. I replied, “I want to go home, back to Middle Scissors Lane.” He then helped me into the rickshaw and set off. Away we went along broad streets and narrow alleys. In the streets were a lot of pedestrians. Men and women, young and old were all bowing to each other and extending greetings in a leisurely way. When they stopped, they remained standing.
The rickshaw did not go quickly at all. In fact, the rickshaw man seemed to be crawling along. We seemed to wander all over Beijing. I noticed that his back was drenched in sweat, but we still hadn’t reached Middle Scissors Lane!
At this point I woke up with a start. Opening my eyes, I saw a photograph of my husband Wenzao on the wall. Perplexed, I asked myself: “Who is that? He doesn’t belong to Middle Scissors Lane.” If I didn’t even recognize my husband, it goes without saying that I didn’t recognize elder sister Chen Yu either, who was sleeping in the opposite bed, or my daughter and grandson, who came in later.
Deep down in my soul my eternal home was Middle Scissors Lane, where my parents and younger brothers lived. In my dreams it seemed that I had never been to Beijing’s Qian Yuan En Temple. It follows, of course, that much less had I ever been to the United States, Yannanyuan in Beijing, Molu in Yunnan Province, Qianlu in Sichuan Province, Mashi District in Tokyo, or London, Paris, Cairo, Moscow, and all the other places I had lived in. But none of them was my home!
Then, as I lay back on my pillow I could not help retracing the road I had travelled over the last ninety years. At times sweet, at times sour, at times bitter, and again, at times stinging. Tears rolled down my cheeks as “a lifetime’s gratitude and regret were packed into one morning”
Two days before I had joked to a young friend: “I really am a ‘person who has nothing to lose.’ I have no ‘rights’ that can be taken away, no ‘office’ that I can be dismissed from, no ‘rank’ that I can tumble from, no ‘fortune’ that can be siphoned off in fines. I really do have nothing to care for or worry about. There are no strings or ties to bind me. I can just get up and go whenever I please.” Never did it occur to me that there might be something I didn’t know about, something that I was secretly yearning for day and night. It was something from which I could never break the connection. That something was “home”.
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