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文章标题:重振家业的祖母发表日期:2019-07-27
作  者:余國英出处:原创浏览75次,读者评论1条论坛回复0条
重振家业的祖母
文/余國英
2019年07月27日,星期六

    小的時候,每逢清明節,我的父母都要準備一個小桌上面供了一些魚肉雞等平常吃不到的好菜,然後添三碗白飯,碗邊安放三雙筷子。

    怎麼三碗啊?我們問。

   「一碗是你們祖父的,一碗是大祖母許氏的,第三碗是給我的親生母親黃氏。」爸爸鞠完三個躬之後解釋道。

 

    據父親告訴我們,親生黃氏祖母的父親很早就去世了,所以黃家小丫頭才十三歲, 就在我們余家幫傭,擔當起養活自己母親和弟弟的責任。

    一天,祖父的元配大家小姐徐氏派了她陪嫁的小丫頭拿了一小袋銅板到廚房,賞給臨時僱來幫忙的鄰居黃小翠。

   黃小翠拿了賞錢,匆忙趕到徐氏的病房,向主母推辭道:「太太,你已經給我工資了,服侍您吃飯給您打掃房間,是我份內的事喔!怎広還能另收賞錢呢?」

   「你既然不要賞錢,那告訴我,你想要什麼呢!」大病初愈的許氏笑嘻嘻地問。

   「這樣吧,我的弟弟整天跟巷口的小流氓混,實在不是一個辦法,不知道可不可以到余氏家族私塾老師家去打雜,他如果因此能認一點字就好了!」聰明伶俐的小丫頭黃小翠回答。

   「你倒不錯,用這麼一些小賞錢,竟然想替你弟弟弄一份差事!」心地善良、性格溫順的徐氏祖母笑了起來。

 

    沒有生育的大祖母許氏過世以後,祖父家中饋乏人, 而余氏家族雖已日趨式微,可族人卻仍然認為美麗健康、聰明伶俐的小丫頭只能做祖父的房中使喚, 他的繼任夫人應該是一位門當戶對的小姐。這件事情一直拖到我的父親出世,祖父才以有了兒子繼承人為由,毅然決然地把祖母正式收為填房, 那時黄家巷口的小混混己被警察局抓去, 小舅公因為能識之無,就被送到警察學校去學習, 訓練成一個為民除害的警察學員。

 

    余家族人因為欺負祖父身體不好,填房祖母年輕,加以黃家沒有有力的父兄撐腰,所以分家的時候,祖父母分到的家產全是已經典當出去的田地房產。

    祖母不願意讓余家族人有更多藉口,給祖父添加更多的麻煩,就毅然決然地承擔當起贖回已經典當出去的房地產的重任,每天辛苦持家,任勞任怨,白天與佃戶長工及女傭們一同工作,甚至晚上還與與女工們睡在田邊草寮中。

 

    因為祖上缺錢,他们家的房子曾典押給周姓人家, 後來祖父母凑足了銀兩, 终於將房屋贖回自住, 那知祖父一過世,周家突然舉家老少,全部搬到孤兒寡婦家中,吃飯時先上桌坐,上菜時先伸筷挾,而且揚言要賴著永遠不肯走了, 余家狀子告上衙門, 竟如石沈大海,遲遲不見處理, 年青的黄氏無奈,眉頭一皺,計上心來,乘夜晚月黑風高之際,溜到後院,由屋簷下抽出一塊破磚朝自已的額頭上敲去。

    「救命呀, 救命呀!」年輕的祖母高声吵嚷起來。

     她的喊聲一時驚動了鄉親地保街坊鄰人,縣衙門立刻升堂, 只見帶了幼子跪在堂下寡婦楚楚動人的臉上蓋滿了鲜血, 主審敲響驚堂木,黃氏立刻由懷中取出住房銀貨兩訖的合約, 看得主審的縣長怒由心起,也不及問起這位少婦為何受傷,當場下令要周家全部立刻搬出,永遠不許再騷擾余家尚未成年的孤兒以及年青美麗的寡婦。

 

    事後,祖母怕族人欺負年幼的父親,受了時任江蘇省民政廳長,後來在台灣做過行政院長的叔公余井塘母親的鼓勵,毅然絕然地帶領了女傭及長工們離開家鄉興化,搬到揚州,在叔公余井塘母親家的附近居住。

 

    「慣兒不慣學! 」祖母說。當時的社會風氣是要用吸食鴉片煙來繫住兒子們,可是那時我的祖母卻獨排眾議,把她的獨子送到上海去讀暨南大學接受新式教育。父親也不辜負祖母的希望,四年之後,以全校第一名得到了四百枚大洋銀元的奬金畢業。

    不過呢,我父親回家以後,郤帶了一項驚人的消息,告訴祖母他在上海認識了一位由鹽城到上海讀書的程家千金小姐,一直央求祖母找人到母親家去提親,本來祖母的意思是要用父母之命媒妁之言給自己找一個好媳婦的,現在,父親居然自己找了一位受過高等教育的新式女子,起初老人家雖然非常不樂意,但是很快就改变了主意。

 

   「按說,我不是她親自選擇的媳婦,老人家認為與其使兒子傷心,不如增加一個自己疼愛的媳婦,不但沒有虐待排斥我,反而待我有如親生,由生火煮飯、洗衣掃地等教起,乃至如何管理佣僕, 婆婆的原意是教導媳婦應該懂得如何親自操作家務,才不會被手下佣人們拿捏,那知中日抗戰發生,我和你父親逃難到了重慶,所有家務都得親自動手,如果沒有你們祖母的教導,以我一個在程家四體不動,五榖不分, 到上海去讀書的千金小姐,哪裡能夠挨過抗戰時代那些貧困的日子!」母親也常常在父親及我們面前稱讚祖母的大度和聰明能幹。

    因為我的父母親經常交相稱讚的緣故,所以雖然這輩子我從來沒有見過她老人家,但是我第一個最愛的女人就是我爸爸的親生媽媽,也就是我一心響往的祖母。

 

    「你们的祖母常常當着人面說不必找眼鏡了,叫秀山(母親的小名)替她讀報紙罷!」父親說,這樣不但張顯了我母親是一位孝順且受過新式教育的女子,而且還掩蓋了祖母自己本身不識字的事實。

     不認字? 那她怎麼管理地主家的家庭財務呢?我們又問。

    「你们的祖母是一位絕頂聰明的女子,我們中國不同面額的鈔票是不同顏色及大小的, 她就根据紙幣的顏色和大小自己發明了一套查帳的方式來監督帳房的帳薄。」媽媽告訴我們。

     那,如果她到了只有同樣大小綠色鈔票的美國,不就沒了徹嗎?我們再問。

     絕對難不倒她, 聰明的老人家一定另有一套格外高明的辦法來解決這個問題的!對於這一點,我爸爸媽媽異口同聲一致非常肯定。


 

 

A Tomb-Sweeping Festival Story

 

Written and translated Gwen Li

Edited by Descartes Li

      When I was young, every Tomb-Sweeping Festival, my parents always burnt three sticks of incense, prepared a small table of chicken, pork, fish or other rarely served good dishes, filled up three bowls of white rice, and placed a pair of chopsticks at the side of each rice bowl.

      One day, I asked: “Why three bowls?” My father bowed three times first then explained to us: "One bowl is for my father, your late grandfather, of the Yu family. Another bowl is for your late grandmother, who was my official mother, Lady Xu. The third bowl is for my real mother Huang." Let me tell you the story of my real mother.

      My biological grandfather, the father of my biological and real mother died early. This left my mother to bear the responsibility of supporting her mother and her younger brother. She became a domestic helper to our Yu family at the early age of 13 and became known in the Yu household as Little Huang.

     One day, Lady Xu, your grandfather's first wife, took pity on the hard life of Little Huang. Years earlier, Lady Xu herself had come to the Yu family, with only a dowry chambermaid to accompany her. She sent a small bag of coppers to the kitchen to give to Little Huang. Little Huang took the small bag of money, hurried back to Lady Xu's rooms and said to the mistress: "Madam, you have already paid me! I could not accept this extra money!"

    "Since you don't want the monetary reward, is there something else you want?" Lady Xu, who just recovered from an illness, asked with a kind smile.  The Clever little Huang replied: "Well, my brother hangs around with the local rascals all day. It really is not good for him. Is there any way that he can go to the the home of the Yu family tutor? He can help with chores, and maybe learn to read and write some simple characters?" Our docile, kind-hearted, Xu grandmother laughed."You are not so stupid, to exchange such a small reward for a job for your younger brother!"

     After the death of childless Lady Xu, the Yu family was in decline. The elders all felt that the successor wife should be a lady came from the family with an equivalent (or higher) social status. Little Huang was just the servant in my father’s bedroom.  This argument dragged until I was born. Since I was the male heir, your grandfather made Little Huang girl his official wife.  Little Huang was no longer a little girl, she was now Lady Huang.

     At the same time I was born, my uncle, the little rascal Lady Huang’s younger brother hung around with was arrested by the police. But Lady Huang’s younger brother knew how to read and write, and once word was sent that he was related to the good Yu family, he was sent to the police academy. But my father was sick, and as part of the deal, the Yu family decided to break up.

    My uncles, taking advantage of your grandfather’s poor health, and his new wife’s young age, divided up family properties, and your grandparents only got a a house and some land which were already pawned out to the local Zhou family.

     My mother Huang was young, but smart and vigorous. On our lands, she worked with the tenant workers during the day, and even slept in the field grass hut with the women workers at night. My father died one year later, but my mother succeeded in paying off the house to the local Zhou family.

    Right after the death of my father, the Zhou’s claimed the house where we were living, and moved in. Every mealtime, the Zhou’s, young and old, rushed to the dining table, and their chopsticks always reached the food first. My mother took the matter to the higher officials, but the court refused even to hear the young widow with a fatherless toddler in her arms. That toddler was me.

    What did the helpless young widow Huang do? She figured out a way. One chilly dark night, she slipped into the backyard, from under the eaves pulled a broken brick, and used it to knock her own forehead.

    "Help, Help!" The young widowed mother cried at the top of her lungs, and her shouts were heard by all the neighbors. At the county court trial, the judge/mayor saw in front of him a little boy kneeling along with his widowed young mother, her beautiful face was covered with blood. The judge exclaimed: “What happened?” The Widow Huang immediately took the written contract out for the authority to see. And the judge ordered on the spot that the Zhou family should move out Yu’s house immediately, never again harassing the toddler orphan and the young and beautiful widow.

     Afterwards however, your grandmother still feared the persecution of the Zhou’s, and so she took me and we left our hometown village Xinghua, moved to Yangzhou, a bigger city. We moved near the residence of one of my father’s aunts, whom we called Second Grandmother Yu.

     "You will spoil your son by sending him to school!" Said some relatives. At that time, the typical custom was to use opium smoking to keep first sons at home, but your grandmother had a different idea. She sent her only son, the original bowing, orphan toddler, to far away Shanghai to go to university.

    I think I lived up to my mother's expectations. After four years of university, I graduated summa cum laude and won a 400 silver dollar prize. However, after I came home, I brought an even more surprising news to my mother. I met a young woman, Miss Chen, who came from Yancheng, which means Salt City. She had come to Shanghai to receive University education in Shanghai.  Your grandmother had meant to use a matchmaker to find a good daughter-in-law for herself, but now, her son, had found himself a new modern woman with higher education. I married Miss Chen, your mother, in Shanghai. At first, my mother did not agree, but soon changed her mind.

     Your grandmother realized that instead of making her son sad, it is better to add a beloved daughter-in-law. So she treated my love like her own daughter, taught her to light the fire for cooking, do the laundry as well as the sweeping, and so on. She also instructed my wife, formerly Miss Chen, on how to treat servants, so that she would gain their respect and not be manipulated. At the time, I believed my considerate and smart young wife was learning these very un-modern skills out of respect for my mother.

     During this time, your grandmother used to say in front of people that she could not find her glasses, do let Miss Chen read the newspaper for me. Just to show that she had a daughter-in-law who could read. This not only showed off that our mother was a filial and educated woman, but also masked the fact that grandmother herself was illiterate.

     I thought my life was settled. I was going to be the local high school mathematics teacher and live with my lovely intelligent wife. But I had not expected that the Sino-Japanese War would break out!  We fled to Chongqing, with all the housework having to be done by the two of us. If not for your grandmother's teaching, we could not have survived those days of World War II! Your mother always praised her mother-in-law for her magnanimity and cleverness.

     I was only a little girl when my father told me this story. He is now long gone. One day I too will be gone and maybe on some Tomb-Sweeping Day in the future, you can tell you granddaughter about your grandfather and his real mother. 


本文在7/27/2019 11:52:50 AM被施雨编辑过
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幼河 去幼河家留言留言于2019-07-27 14:09:47(第1条)
我祖母是同房丫头。我父亲和姑姑出生后她也不到20岁。后来她难产去世。那是民国初年的事情。
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