Last week while I was still unpacking some boxes after moving to a new apartment. I found a small bag of pins that my mother passed to me last summer when she visited New York. There are about 50 of them from the Chinese Cultural Revolution era (1966-1976) are separated in two small boxes, a paper box with the text “Injectio Vitamin B Complicis” and a plastic box labeled “High Quality Toothpick.” In the plastic box, well-polished pins with Mao portrait placed in between 3 layers of napkins and red velvet, a typical way my mother storage every little precious item.
About 5 years ago, along with the raising of Chinese Contemporary art which at the time most work seem to be political themed. I was also interested in Cultural Revolution. After some books and films, I was saddened just to imagine what my parents had gone through. I think I will never be able to understand the emotional damage that cast on that particular generation.
When I opened the paper Vitamin B box, I was muted. There is a bunch pins jam-packed in this tiny little box. Almost all the pins are cracked, faded, chipped and rotten. I knew they must belong to my father as I can even smelled the machinery grease from the box. But strangely, I felt very much connected to this box of not so perfect pins. I have never felt a strong connection to my father who I normally could not handle a conversation for merely 10 minutes ever since I’ve grown up. But somehow I see father’s non-stop struggling life while go through every single pins in the box, from growing up in the slum, missing education during the Culture Revolution, raise me and my sister while working and schooling, as well as scared to loose job each year after his factory took a new system. All that was in this box.
Last week, I called home and my father answered. I was not brave enough to say what I would like to tell him, and I couldn’t even keep the conversation in a few minutes. I feel shamed and regretted.
"Happy Birthday, Dad!"