Dew Drops

A Good Deal to Marry a Butcher

I grew up in China in the seventies. My family ate meat on Sundays. The butcher’s big stump of cutting board was in the back of the market after you walked through little piles of dirty potatoes covered with soil and bok choy with leaves perforated by worms. There was always a line-up in front of the butcher, who was hacking a pork with his heavy knife. You just gave the butcher your ration coupon, and he knew how many grams of meat to cut for you. If you were lucky, you arrived at the time when the butcher reached a pork’s leg. If you were not lucky, you got in front when the butcher was dispensing a pork belly. There was no privilege to pick which part of the pig you wanted. The butcher tried his best to ensure that all buyers took home a mix of skin, fat and lean meat. However, a slight angling of the knife when cutting the meat could make a big difference in how much lean meat you got.

My father used to say: “It would be a good deal to marry our daughter to a butcher, so the family can always eat good meat. “

We ate chicken once a year. My mother would buy a live hen weeks before the Chinese New Year to make sure we had a chicken for the festivity. My father would circle ropes around the legs of our little table in the kitchen to make a chicken coop underneath it. It was the children’s job to feed the hen and fatten it before the slaughter. The kitchen would smell of chicken droppings before the New Year.

On the New Year’s Eve, my mother would boil a big pot of water, sharpen the knife, grab the hen’s wings and neck with one hand and slid the sharp knife through its neck with her other hand. She would hold the hen upside down to drain its blood in a bowl, tuck its head under its wing and let it cool down in a corner.   Sometimes the corpse still twitched a little. Then Mom would throw the chicken in the hot water and start plucking the feather. The big feathers were easy to pull out. The fine hair all over the body was a piece of work. My mother would give me a pair of tweezers and I would have to spend an hour or two before seeing the skin smooth and hairless. Then my mother would cut the chicken open. All insides of the chicken were edible and to be made into different dishes after much washing, chopping and salting. My mother let me pick the best feathers to make shuttlecocks to play with.

Years later, I left China to study abroad. The first time I walked into a supermarket, I was mesmerized by the abundance, the variety, the impeccably organized display and the gleaming cleanliness. That night I wrote to my parents: “Mom, you won’t believe me. Here you don’t have to kill a chicken and gut it! Everything has been done for you. Even more, you can just buy chicken breast or thighs! And pork meat! You can just buy pork chops, four or six of them, all lean and cut the same size, packed up neatly in a box, ready for the frying pan! Oh Mom, I wish you were here to see it! And Dad, I don’t have to marry a butcher to eat good meat!”











我弟弟经常在比赛前喂蛐蛐红辣椒。 他说蛐蛐吃了辣的赛起来更凶。他和邻居的孩子们蹲在门口,头碰头地在蛐蛐罐周围围成一圈。屁股上有两根刺的是雄蛐蛐,三根刺的是雌蛐蛐。一般是雄蛐蛐爱斗,可有时雌蛐蛐给惹火了会跟你没完没了。


Dew Drops

Scenes on the Floor

A new world appeared on the floor of my house since I had kids.

My middle daughter always drank milk lying on the floor when she was a toddler. As soon as she was given a bottle, she would immediately lie down on the linoleum floor of the kitchen, or on the wooden planks in the living room, or on the carpet in her bedroom, wherever she happened to be. She would be rocking herself gently side to side, cooing and humming, with her little legs up in the air sometimes, as if floating in some fairyland.   We would go around her and not disturb her in such a state of enjoyment.

There was a time when my first daughter loved all Schleich animals that came in a pair of mother and baby. So we would come across a mother mare and her baby pony grazing on the kitchen floor, a mother rhinoceros and her baby rhino sunbathing on the rug in the living room, or a mother bear and her baby cub roaming around the dining table. We would go around them and let them frolic to their heart’s content.

My son has so far pretty much lived on the floor in his twelve years of existence. He draws on his sketch book lying belly down on the floor. He checks his Instagram lying belly up on the carpet. He knits hats while sprawling himself across a stair with his shoulders leaning against the wall and his feet resting against the railing. We skip over his recumbent body as if he was part of the terrain in the house.

When the boy and his middle sister played together, we would see two bodies tangled up and rolling on the floor, arms wrestling, legs kicking, both giggling or screaming. The sister used to sit on her younger brother while browsing on Snapchat, but as the boy grew bigger, now he is the one who pins his sister flat on the floor, her long curly hair spread out like Medusa.

Santa Claus sent us a Labradoodle dog and a Bengal cat when kids repeatedly wrote to him.   The floor became their battleground too. The dog pounces on the cat and almost gobbles him up before spitting him out of his soft mouth. The cat sneaks upon the dog and jumps onto his face with his claws wide open. In times of truce, the dog lies on the floor resting with the cat spooning by his warm belly and purring tenderly.

I told my husband that when the kids all grew up, I would be sad to lose the world of wonder they made on our floor, so it would be up to us this time to create a new Atlantis on our floor somehow. His face spread wide into a huge ear-to-ear naughty grin, like that of the Grinch when he got his awful idea.