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Happy childhood memories with her grandparents

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  • Interviewer: Thank you for accepting my interview. Could you tell me when you were born? You don’t have to be too specific; just “1950s,” “1960s,” “1970s,” etc. will do.
  • I was born in the 1960s.
  • Interviewer: Where did you live in China from 1966 to 1976?
  • I mainly lived in two northern cities in Hebei Province -- Changli and Tangshan.
  • Interviewer: You must have many memories of that decade to talk about.
  • Interviewer: But, if we only give you ten minutes -- in other words, during the first ten minutes of the interview, what memories directly come to mind?
  • Interviewer: What do you most want to share with us?
  • Based on my own experiences, I think it was a relatively happy time. I mean, compared with today’s kids of the same age, I feel that I was very happy at that time.
  • Interviewer: [Is it] because there was no homework, no pressure, and no exam-oriented education [at that time]?
  • We still had homework, but not that much. Also, it seemed like it was pretty easy to finish.
  • I had a lot of time to play with my friends, although I also did my homework after school.
  • After I started elementary school, I spent most of my time with my paternal grandparents in Tangshan.
  • I remember that my family’s living conditions were not so good, because my grandparents were greatly impacted by the Cultural Revolution,
  • so they were thrown out of a relatively large house and only given one small room.
  • There was almost no furniture in the room. We had a big stool, and a small stool, and I sat on the smaller stool and used the larger one as a desk to do my homework.
  • After I finished doing homework, I went out to play with my friends, jumping rope and playing hopscotch. I felt happy back then.
  • Interviewer: I see. So, you don’t have many miserable memories of that period, right? Your childhood was happy.
  • Yes, I felt childhood was happy.
  • Interviewer: Do you feel that your experiences during the Cultural Revolution impacted your life after you grew up?
  • Interviewer: Did that period of time have a particular influence on your personal life, and if so, what was it?
  • It’s hard to say. If the Cultural Revolution had not happened, my family environment might have been very different.
  • Right now, I can recall some memories [of that period] that my parents told me about.
  • For example, why did I end up living with my grandparents?
  • It was because my parents worked at a fruit tree research institute, and my mother often needed to go to work in the chestnut groves, such as in Zunhua,
  • to gain firsthand experience by working with a grassroots unit, and carry out the idea of “combining theory and practice.”
  • In addition, my father was “beaten down” and lived in the “cow shed,” so they sent me to my grandparents’ home.
  • Interviewer: So, you spent more time living with your grandparents than with your parents.
  • Yes. If not for the Cultural Revolution, I would have spent a relatively longer time with my parents.
  • Sometimes I think this might be a big influence that the Cultural Revolution had on me.
  • Within my childhood memories, I don’t have that many memories of my parents.
  • Interviewer: I see. I think your situation was quite common at that time. Many children grew up with their grandparents.
  • Interviewer: From today’s perspective, spending so little time with one’s parents as a child might have a somewhat [negative] impact on one’s growth.
  • Yes, I agree, it might. Now that I have children of my own, and my parents come to live with me half of every year, they can see how I interact with my kids.
  • My parents also care about the growth of my children very much; every time they come across books on childhood education, they buy them for me.
  • One time they told me that they have always felt regret about [the lack of] my own childhood education.
  • Interviewer: Maybe they even feel guilty about spending too little time with you and not giving you a good childhood, right?
  • Interviewer: I absolutely understand such feelings. It’s really interesting.
  • Interviewer: I feel like among the many people I have interviewed, you are the first one who pointed this out, which was quite a true experience [during that time].
  • Interviewer: Also, generally speaking, for little children, spending little time with parents during a special period of growth must have an underlying impact on their lives.
  • Yes. But relatively speaking, because I spent more time with my grandparents, I think I have inherited more from them than from my parents.
  • Interviewer: For sure. Did your grandparents pass away?
  • Yes, they died in the Tangshan Earthquake [1976].
  • Interviewer: Oh! They both died during the Tangshan Earthquake?
  • Yes. The situation at that time was this: my paternal grandparents, my younger sister, and I all lived in Tangshan at that time.
  • My little sister moved from Changli to Tangshan when she was five, exactly as I had, and we happened to be there during the Tangshan Earthquake.
  • Interviewer: So, you were the only survivor out of these four?
  • Yes.
  • Interviewer: Wow. So you lived with your parents after that?
  • Yes. After the Tangshan Earthquake, I went back to Changli. That was 1976. The earthquake happened in 1976, and then I went back to Changli.
  • Interviewer: That is tragic.
  • Yes. Actually, there were a lot of families like us. The official death toll of the Tangshan Earthquake was 250,000, but I think the actual number is much bigger than it.
  • Interviewer: I didn't imagine that my interview would [touch on this event].
  • Interviewer: Of course, the Tangshan Earthquake was a huge event that [everyone in China] knew about, but you are the only person I know who actually experienced it,
  • Interviewer:
    ...and furthermore, you had three family members die during that time. [Sigh…] OK. Thank you very much for accepting my interview.
  • Thank you.