My parents arrived in town yesterday for the games. As soon as she put down her luggage, my mother started dusting, cleaning, laundering and having my dad hang a string in the kitchen to line dry the laundry. And she complained about her knee, about my niece being too loud, and about me not making enough money.
The same old mother despite my many tete-a-tete regarding the importance of leaving time for exercise, recreation and peace of mind, especially at her age.
It's a bit of a relief to step out and go about my usual work. Taking a cab about town, I saw cops everywhere, tourists having replaced the residents everywhere, and all the unfinished construction sites prettied up everywhere. Seven years in the making and it's happening in less than 24 hours? It felt surreal. For beneath all the heavy makeup, Beijing still looks the same--the haze hanging over the city ("Let's see how the government can manufacture a clear day tomorrow for the opening," chuckled the taxi driver), the strong desire to put on a face-enhancing extravaganza at all costs (A friend said it felt like the family is receiving important guests and all the poor relatives have to go into hiding, just like old days), and the visiting foreign reporters fishing for the same old China stories (Can we interview you to understand more of the underground church? asked a foreign reporter).
I dragged my parents out for a walk after dinner, much to my mother's displeasure (she still has tons of cleaning to do, even though our ayi just came for his weekly cleaning today). I took them to The Place Mall which is rumored to have the second largest LCD screen in the world. The huge screen was filled with Coca Cola logos due to an event there sponsored by the company. I kept on describing how wonderful the images on that screen were in other non-Olympic days.
I wanted to impress my mother, tacky tourist trap or not, to get her mind off cleaning. She had not wanted to come in the first place. I had pleaded with her. It's probably the last and only Olympics she would experience in person. I want her to be happy, however briefly, even though she appears bent on denying that to herself.
So I'm praying for a safe and good Olympics, for my mother and other Chinese who are like my mother. Just to be able to have fun for a brief period of time. It might be a silly party and people have all the reasons to scorn at this show-and-dance on top of the environmental and human rights problems. But I've learned (or forced) to be more patient, for Beijing has changed faster, much faster, than my mother.
And for my mother, I hope she can enjoy the silly party, even just a little bit.