Friday afternoon, blue sky, no clouds, 70 degree Fahrenheit, June.
Nine years ago, at this very football field, your brother graduated from high school. I flew back across the Pacific for the ceremony, could only stay a few days and had to leave in a hurry. Last night, your brother flew in from the East Coast; forty eight hours from now you will take him back to the airport. To the east flies the shrike, to the west flies the swallow, these days gathering all four family members under the same roof has indeed become a rare occasion.
I do not know what you are pondering right now. The all night party that will be held at school tonight? The four years of high school days that will never return? Just napping? Actually paying attention to what the speaker is saying on stage?
I was 18 and young once, the year I graduated from high school, I skipped the graduation ceremony and left without saying thank you or goodbye to any of the teachers. Why? Who can say? Wanting to play cool? Perhaps! As far as I am concerned, most people who lecture at graduation ceremonies have nothing important to say.
Listen to that student representative on stage... "Build a ladder to reach the stars" - how to build such a ladder? She gave no clue. "Stay forever young" - how does one achieve that? Worst comes to worst, "forever stupid" is a much more real possibility.
That winter 18 years ago, I watched your arrival to this world in the hospital. A nurse placed you on the scale to weigh you. It seems to have occurred just yesterday. In a blink of an eye, you have grown as tall as I am.
you turned one, I had to go to
I see you standing in line, wearing the cap and the white gown, going up to receive your diploma, the smile on your face so radiant. I turn aside to look at your brother. I often joke with him on how you are the best present I have ever given him. Many years from now, on a Friday afternoon in June, you will be at the high school graduation for your own child. More likely than not, I will not be around to witness the event. Will you think of me then? Do you know what I would like to say to you now?
What I would like to tell you is this: in the next four years you will probably face the two most important decisions in your life: I have to admit that I am indeed too old fashioned, but I do think "marrying the right person" is the most important decision you have to make. When you face that choice, I hope you will follow your head and marry someone whose love for you is stronger than yours for him, instead of following your heart and marrying someone for whom your feeling is stronger than his for you.
I saw the graduation gift your brother gave you: he made a collage of your pictures "from crayons to perfume" and quoted book Proverbs, chapter 3 and verses 5 to 7 from the Old Testimony for you. Indeed, man's wisdom is very limited. On the other hand, we Chinese also have 2 proverbs: "Not listening to the words of an old person, you shall come to grief in the very near future", and "Do your best before leaving it to fate." These old sayings are derived from thousands of years of experience and deserve to be heard. Please listen to me:
"Marrying the right person" is not difficult. I have only eight words to impart: "comparable family background and comparable interest and aspiration." "Comparable family background" is an objective condition. In principle I am not for interracial marriages. You may find this difficult to accept. I understand at your age you must find my theory of "marriage is not just an event between two people, it is an event between two families," quaint and out of step with time. However, trust me; this theory is based on the lasting experience of many people.
"Comparable interest and aspiration" is a subjective condition. Both sides should have similar value system and share the same approach to life. In truth, it is not easy to hide a person's true character. It is just that, in love, we often can not bring ourselves to face the facts. Among the different subjective value systems, views on religion, money, and sex are the touchstones. There are wide variations and clear delineations on how people view these three subjects. I can guarantee you a marriage of two people with different views cannot lead to happiness. Time shall be your friend, not your enemy. You will learn that in this world, there are very few unhappy bachelors, but there are many unhappy marriages.
The second most important decision you must make is the career you shall choose. Time has changed, in the States, one does not equate marrying with a life long meal ticket. Opposite to selecting the right marriage partner, you should follow your heart in selecting a career instead of following your head. Get into a line of work you enjoy doing, seek to excel in your field.
As you were growing up, your mother taught you the faith and discipline of a Christian. Your brother set a worthy example for you. I never gave you anything. Now that you are 18, and you will become independent and go out on your own. I hope you are well equipped. Mark Twain once said: "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
Happy journey, my little girl.
聽聽那個學生代表在胡說什麼呢？「建一個可以摘星的梯子」？怎麼建法？沒說。Forever Young？怎麼可能？搞不好，Forever Stupid倒有可能……
Happy Journey，小丫頭。 (信懷南) 7/6/03