Ji Fuxing is a handicapped. At that time, as a member of the production team, he had to struggle to earn work points. For the sake of helping Fuxing and his vision disabled wife, the village reluctantly pushed the hard manual labor to him as at times they still required some assistance. Hence this was how he and his family managed to barely survive.
When the contracts for the fields had come to an end and was time to reallocate the number of hectares of field per person, as Fuxing’s service wasn’t considered to be productive, he was only given two hectares of the field. This was out of everyone’s goodwill, sympathy, pity and care for him and his family.
As the family did not have any money and the blind mother was of no help to support the family, the father had to laboriously cultivate the two hectares of the field to produce enough food for the whole family to survive. At the early age of around 4 to 5, Xiaomei had become his mother’s eyes and his father’s legs. He was sensible and would silently help his parents work. When they had a little sister, Xiaomei was delighted to see her. Though he dared not hold her, he would only watch her.
Xiaomei slowly learned to help his mother to feed his little sister and change her diaper. He would carefully and thoroughly care for his one and only little sister. He would even willing to hold back his hunger to feed his little sister until she was full. He would rather allow himself to suffer than to have his little sister experience a tiny bit of aggrieve. He knew that in this world, other than his parents, his little sister was his only closest family member and he had the responsibility to help his parents to take good care of her.
Xiaomei was dedicated to care for his little sister. As he grew up in a harsh environment, he matured in a way that was not commonly seen in a normal sensible child.
When he saw children of the same age as him carrying school bags and going to school, he had wished to be the same as them, to attend school, to study and to learn to read and write. He knew his family was poor and could not afford for him to attend school. He also knew that his parents really needed him. He would secretly hide at one corner to cry and to appear happy in front of his parents.
Time quickly passed and in a blink of an eye, Xiaodi was already 7. At that time she saw her next-door neighbor, Xiang Yushu, who was older than her by one year always carry a bag and was going to school. She ran home crying, “I want to go to school! I want to be same as Yushu to be able to go to school!”
Mother was silent and father sighed with his head lowered. They were already facing difficulties in feeding themselves and in their home from clothes to home appliances, most those things were abandoned by the families in the village. By going to school, plenty of money would have to be spent on it, hence with their living condition, where would they be able to get that money?
At that time, the 12 years old brother not only had become the family’s main breadwinner but also the most authoritative person in the family. He was crystal clear regarding the family’s situation. He thought for a moment before he firmly said to his helpless parents, “Dad, Mon, there’s not even a person who could recognize words in our family, let little sister go to school ok? In the future, I will work harder, pick more junks to sell to support her school fees.”
The parents, of course, wished that their children would be able to go to school to study and to be literate. They silently acquiesced with their son’s decision. Xiaodi happily went up to her brother to hug and kiss him, “Brother, you are the best! Wait till I grow up and earn money for your marriage!”
Xiaomei was touched to the point of nearly breaking out in tears, “I know, little sister treats me the best! I will wait.”
During the enrollment period, the village substitute teacher did not look down on Xiaodi due to them living in poverty. When she saw the innocent and lovely thin little girl said her name, the teacher furrowed her brows and thought before writing her name as Ji Xiaodi*.
(TLN: Initially, when Xiaodi’s parents named her, her name was written as 小弟[Xiaodi]. The substitute teacher changed and wrote her name as 晓娣[Xiaodi]*. From then on, this writing was used as Xiaodi’s name.)
She bent down and gently said, “Xiaodi, this is your name. Remember, your name will be written like this.”
Xiaodi obediently nodded.
As she did not have a bag, her next door neighbor, Xiang Yushu’s brother, Xiang Yonggang, gifted his used old bag and old stationery to her, “Xiaodi, I have used all these before, as I do not need to use these anymore, you can use them. I know, for your parents to be able to send you to school is already very difficult.”
This situation was as if help was provided in her hour of need. Xiaodi was grateful towards Yonggang.
Xiang Yonggang was 3 years older than Xiaodi. As both families are next door, they would often play together. In many occasion, he would secretly give Xiaodi his snacks. When Xiaodi was bullied by other people or even his own little sister, he would always come forward to protect her. Her relationship with Yonggang was as close as she and her biological brother.
When children from the rural areas attend school, it was more difficult because of the long traveling distance. Every day when school was over and everyone was returning home, Xiaodi would always be humiliated with words. “Xiaodi, are you a guy or a girl? Why is your name for neither guy nor girl?”
There would be students who would play tricks on her by pulling on her clothes while shouting, “Xiaodi, what kind of clothing are you wearing? So big and so fat, why does it also reveal so much skin?” What Xiaodi was wearing were clothes that the villagers did not want. As her mother could not see, her brother was the one who chose those clothes which were of smaller size. However, when Xiaodi wore it, it was still very big. With a look, it was obvious that the clothes were not hers.
Those students’ words had hurt her young heart and she could only avoid them. When facing so many people, she dared not release her anger. Her parents had always told her, “When others are angry, you should not fight with them. If can endure than endure, if can’t endure also have to endure. The villagers have always been taking care of our family and our family has owed them a lot.”
She would always put up a false front and held back her tears. She wished to have healthy and normal parents. She really wished she herself could live the same life as every student where they do not need to rely on others to survive. She even wished that she was born in a rich family.
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