Homes and childhoods live on in our memories, where there’re the warmth and cold of the four seasons, the fragrance of grass and plants, and unforgettable moments both bitter and sweet.
My friend, where is your homeland? Do you have an “unforgettable moment” from your childhood memories, carved into your bones?
I come from China, and my childhood memories from Beijing. But Beijing has changed so much now that my childhood memories are nothing but dreamlike fantasies, elusive as smoke.
In my childhood reminiscences, I don’t remember Beijing’s biting cold of minus 20 degrees Celsius. What I do recall are bingtanghulu candies held proudly in the hands of children wrapped up in great bundles of clothes, and the joy felt by young and old on the frozen lake of Beihai Park.
I don’t remember the mosquitoes that tormented me during Beijing summers. But I remember the cicadas’s endless singing at noon. To this day, I still think how wonderful it would be if we could understand what the insects are saying…
Springs and summers spent in the Taoran Pavilion taught me my first lessons in colour and season. The stories of many elders have sprouted there with the growth of flowers and plants. Times have passed and circumstances have changed but these stories still whisper to me.
That was my childhood before the age of seven and a half. Those are the memories of Beijing planted in my childhood.
And later? The Cultural Revolution blackened the joy of my childhood and the warmth of my home. Today, after fifty-four years, I can still recall the horrors from that dark and turbulent period and the struggles of those cold days and nights when I felt like an orphan. Only when I started to read again at age twelve did I regain the warmth and energy needed for survival, from the stories and characters in books.
War and poverty today still plague children the world over, bringing fear into their childhoods and homes. We may not be able to halt the raging conflicts or eradicate poverty, but each of us can send the gift of a book. In doing so, we can give children energy and spirit through stories and pictures, and plant dreams for their futures.
Thank you for supporting the Books for Kids project from Mothers’ Bridge of Love. Let’s work together as one to give more children a beautiful childhood.
I wish you all Happy Children’s Day on June 1st.
(A big thank you to our wonderful volunteers and translators for their beautiful translation of Xinran’s message: William Spence, Thecla Loh/Yihan Liu, and Dr. Yukteshwar Kumar. )