by Jamie Jo
Can she find good in this cruel world?
| Chapter One
The year was 1967 My country was being destroyed by a vicious war. I was the helpless victim of a thoughtless world. This is my story, the story of how I learned to go forward and never look back. More important, I learned love and be loved unconditionaly.
My name is Lin Lee and I was seven years old when I learned the true nature of this world. Though you may never have noticed, this is a cruel world. My family was being torn apart and no one seemed to notice, let alone care.
My father was a political activist in Vietnam in the sixtys. He was not well liked among our country men therefore we were perpetually running. I remember hiding with my mother and my brother in caves and little huts and even in weeds so that daddy could take a stand. Mamma would often tell daddy that this was no way for children to live.
The war made daddy and his positions even less liked. He decided that mamma was right. Late one night we managed to get into the small village where my grandfather lived. We acted like criminals, sneaking and hiding, untill we got to the back door of the little store that my grandfather owned. Grampy welcomed us with open arms.
Maybe because I was young I simply did not understand, but that night would be the last time I would see my parents. Mamma cried when she tucked me into bed. She told me to take care of Quan, my brother, and to always mind Grampy. I told her I would. Then Like thieves in the night, they were gone.
The next morning I was awakened to the smell of food cooking. That was unusual for me, it was rare to get much food when I was hiding with mommy and poppy. I went to the small kitchen in Grampys apartment in the back of the store. He smiled at me and told me that I was going to have to help him out a lot.
My first job that day was to get the water from the well outside. It was hard work, but I remembered mommy telling me to mind Grampy.
On the way back to the store I met a soldier. I remember that he was very tall. I thought he was a giant. Daddy had taught me to tell the difference in the soldiers and I knew this one to be American. I could talk to the Americans if they could understand me. I put on my best smile and said the only English words I knew.
He smiled and winked at me. He knelt down so he was closer to me then he said,
"My name is Greg."
I didn't know what he was saying, but I smiled anyway. He reached deep in his pocket and pulled out a piece of candy for me. I took it gratefully and smiled. Then I remembered my bucket of water. I picked it up and struggled with it for a moment, then an amazing thing happened. The bucket became light, I soon realized that the same soldier who had given me the candy was walking next to me carring my bucket. He took it all the way to grampys for me. At the door I thanked him, he smiled, then he turned and left.
From that day on My tall friend helped me with my water. I could not say his name, so in my language I simply called him tall one. Every morning he would say his name, but I only called him tall one. He often shopped in grampys store. He would buy trinkets and paper and candy, he and grampy always seemed to find something to talk about. I could not understand them most of the time because they spoke in English. I did learn a few words, but not enough to understand the conversation.
On a day that I shall never forget I went to fetch the water, like usual, but Tall one did not come to help me. I was upset, but I finished my chores. Grampy looked at me and smiled.
"Your tall friend did not help you today did he?"
"No, I did not see him." I said feeling a little dejected.
Grampy took me in his arms and smiled.
"My child There are some things that I can not explane, and some things that if I could find the words you would still not understand. People may not always be with us. They come and they go, but love will alway remain and as long as there is love, we will be together. Do you understand?"
"I thik so. Did tall one have to leave?"
"Yes, tall one had to leave. I think you will see him again though. Promise me that you will allways love me."
"Grampy, I will always love you. Don't be silly. Love remains you just said that." I said as I snuggled to his soft side.
"Lin Lee, I love you too. Don't forget that. I want you to have this."
He presented to me a locket, on the inside I found a picture of him on one side and a picture of mommy and poppy on the other. on the back the phrase love remains was painstakingly engraved. He clasped the chain around my neck and gave me a hug.
"I love you precious one. Now take your brother and play out side. It is the best way."
I did not know why grampy was acting so strange, but I did as I was told. Quan was two years old and was quite a handfull, so I gratefully accepted help from a lady who saw us playing. She picked up Quan in her arms and smiled and bounced him up and down. I turned when I heard my name. It was tall one! He had come to see me!
I ran to him and leapt into his open arms. He smiled at me then walked to the lady holding Quan. He said something in English then we all started walking.
I began to panic when I saw the big airplanes landing and taking off at the edge of the village. I knew that I was not to go near that place. grampy had warned me more than once to stay away. I cried and struggled to free myself from tall one's arms, but he held me tightly. He spoke calmly, but I did not understand what he was saying.
We were getting nearer to the air planes when I saw a man that I knew from the village. He approached tall one and spoke in English. He then took me in his arms and tried to explane what was happening.
"Your Grampy wants you to go with tall one. You will be safe. He will take care of you."
At that the man handed me back to tall one and we proceded to enter the belly of a big plane. I was frightened, but I knew this is where I was supposed to be.
Another soldier, a lady soldier, put me in a seat and buckled me in tightly. I looked for Quan, but could not see him.
Tall one sat in a seat next to me and buckled himself. I struggled to speak to him. I could not efectivly communicate my fear and worry to him. He looked at me with his deep blue eyes and I knew he would not let anything harm me.
When the plane started moving I could not sit still. I had never been in any motor vehicle and had certainly never flown. Simple fear gave way to panic. Tall one did not show any signs of fear at all. He was calm and I know he meant well when he smiled at me, but I felt hurt and did not want to look at him.
I could not believe that he would take me from my Grampy the way he did. Then to know that Grampy wanted me to go I felt I was being abandoned all over again. I was desperatly looking for Quan. He was the only family I had left. I had no one to love me.
Mommy and Poppy left me, and now Grampy was sending me away. I must have been a bad girl. I wished I had never met Tall one. If I had done my chores the way I was supposed to, maybe Grampy would still want me.
I only wanted to have someone love me. I could no longer control my tears. I openly wept. Tall one saw my tears and he put his big arm around me and pulled me close to his side. He smiled and spoke to me. To this day I do not know what he was saying to me, but it does not matter. He gave me what I was craving more than anything at that moment. He showed me love, and that can overcome even the language barier.
The flight took many hours. and I was simply exhausted. I fell asleep snuggled to Tall one's side. I slept so well I didn't even notice the plane land. Tall one woke me suddenly.
I sat up and looked at Tall one. I was in a small way hoping to be back in Grampy's small apartment. I was imediatly aware, however that I had not been dreaming and that I was in fact in the huge airplane.
Tall one lifted me into his arms and carried me down past the rows of seats to the door of the plane. I was still grogy, but I was quickly becoming mindful of the situation. Suddenly I realised I still did not see Quan. I looked for him and I tried to free myself from Tall one's arms, but it was to no avail.
My tears began once again to flow. There were so many people and they were all going in different directions. I only wanted to see my brother, but he was nowhere. I was calling for him. I screamed his name, but no one understood me. There were children everywhere, but none of them were Quan. I was giving up hope that I would see him again. One last time I called for him I cried,
"Do you see my baby brother?"
And to my suprise I heard a soft voice answer, in my language,
"He is ok. Everything is going to be alright!"
I turned to see the source of the voice. A kindly lady with a sweet smile was looking at me. She was clearly an American, but she could speak to me. She could communicate with me!
I asked her to take me to Quan, but she said she could not. She said he was going to go with another family and that I would be going with her.
Tall one set my feet on the ground next to the nice lady and gently nudged me toward her. I was sure I was supposed to go to her, but I was not ready to go without my brother.
The lady knelt down next to me and smiled.
"You don't know what is going on here do you?"
She asked me with a hint of concern in her voice and eyes.
"No, I don't. I was playing and Tall one took me to the plane and now I am here, and I need my brother. Mommy told me to look after him."
"You were brought here to live with me and my family. Your brother is going to be looked after by another family. They will love him very much and maybe someday you will see him again. My name is Pat Talbot, but you may call me mama Pat. Tall one, as you call him, is my son. His name is Greg Talbot.
I was so confused I understood the words, but I did not know why it had to be so.
"Mama Pat, why can't I go with Quan? I am supposed to watch him I promised my mommy. If I don't find him before I go home I am going to be in trouble. Please! You have to help me find him."
"Lin Lee, I don't think you understand. This is going to be your home now. Your mommy and daddy could not take care of you and Quan any more." Pat started before I inturrupted.
"That is what Grampy was doing! He was taking care of me and Quan, Grampy needs to know that I am here. He wants me to go back I have to go help him."
"Your Grampy knows you are here. He loves you so much that he wants you to have a better life."
Pat stood and spoke to Greg in English. He hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. He wipped a tear from her eye then he kenlt next to me.
"I have to go now my sweet heart." Pat translated Greg's words to me.
I was at a loss, the familiar feeling of abandonment crept up on me again. I cried and pat just hugged me. Greg turned and began walking away.
"Greg Talbot!" I said his name in English and he turned back to me. "Greg Talbot". I could only cry. I noticed for the first time that Greg had tears on his cheek. He blew a kiss into the air then proceded to the airplane.
I did not know what to think, Here I was alone and half a word away from anyone and anything I had ever known. Ready or not I was starting a new life.
Pat gently took my hand and led me through a series of hallways in a brightly lit building. She didn't say much, but now and then she would squeeze my hand and smile at me: A gesture that would come to mean so much more to me over time.
We finally emerged from the building into a parking area. I had never seen so many cars, large trucks to small cars I had no idea so many diffrent vehicles existed! Pat guided me to the door of a pea green 1960 Corvair. Looking back I realise the car was anything but glamorous, but that day I felt like a queen who had been escorted to her beautiful carriage.
We drove along many city streets, Pat could see my amazement at all the new sights. I could not contain squeels of delight when we passed a movie house with the lighted marquee. We ate dinner at a drive in, a pretty girl on rollerskates brought me my first American meal, Cheese burger, onion rings and a straberry milk shake. I told Pat that someday I hopped to be fortunate enough to own rollerskates and serve people at a drive in. She smiled, but I didn't preceive her saddness at the thought.
After dinner, Pat drove me to her house. It was perfeclty lovely! A brick house with smoke invitingly flowing from the chimny. It was complete with a yard of green grass and a white pickett fence. I wondered if I was in Heaven.
Inside the house I felt welcome, and more importantly, safe. Pat told me no one could hurt me there and I was free to go where I wished. She showed me to my room. I had never, in my short life, been so amazed that a stranger would do so many things for a street rat like me.
I walked very cautiously across the room. The pink carpet felt so soft under my feet that I had to remove my tattered shoes to get my feet closer to the comfort. I gingerly touched the silky bedspread with the delicate flower pattern. I looked to Pat first to see if it was ok to sit on the bed. She smiled and nodded for me to make myself at home. Then I saw her, sitting aginst the pillows at the head of the bed. The most georgous doll I had ever laid eyes on. She was perfect and I knew without asking that she was mine.
My life, though it was seven years in the making, began that night. My fear was gone and I was finaly home. I had a life greater than ten thousand dreams could have portrayed. If only Quan was doing this well, I would be happy.
Chicago Illinois, 1969. A group of Radicals known at the Chicago 7 were on trial for crimes commited at the Democratic national convention. Comisky park was home to dreams, and night mares. I was in my new home learning many new things and happy for the first time.
Pat and her husband Rolland welcomed me into their home. I was their daughter I was part of this family. I was expected to be just that, family. I did have to adjust to many different things.
I was particularly intrigued by the running water. I had never taken a hot bath and I had only rarly taken cold or luke warm baths. I vowed the first night that I would indeed marry Mr. Bubble for the comfort he gave me in the bath.
Baths, dolls, comfortable beds and a loving family were more than I had ever dreamt of having for myself. I was in many ways becoming the all American girl. Learning English and aquainting my self with new customs were never enough to make me forget where I cam from. I still loved my birth family dearly. I rarily removed the small gold locket that my grandfather gave me. I did not show it to Pat for fear she would take it to help me leave the past behind.
Pat and I rarily, if ever, spoke of the tragic events that led me to this place. Rolland, on the other hand, was my doorway to home. He was everything any little girl could hope to find in her father. He was my daddy no matter what blood tests and skin color said.
Rolland loved to watch the news he said he always wondered if he would see Greg waving to a camera some day. I agreed that it would be good to see Greg, but I was looking for my family as well. I think Rolland knew that, though he never said.
I was nine years old when my daddy, Rolland suddenly passed away. My heart was wretched from my chest. I had lost everyone who ment so much to me. Pat was now my only solace. She told me many years later that I helped her make it through as much as she helpped me.
Greg returned home for the funeral. It was the first time I had seen him since my first day here. He was happy to seem and 'our' mother, but was deeply saddened by the loss of his father.
Greg and his father had been very close, many people said they acted more like brothers than father and son. Rolland was happy to see Greg take an active part in the war effort, even before he joined the Army.