Sunday, July 27, 2014
Update on Er Jie Jie (Second Sister-in-Law)
Although Er Jiejie and her husband made a lot of money, taking on a business was an extraordinary pressure. Mentally and physically, it was incredibly hard work to run their own marble factory. It was also dangerous both in terms of the machinery, noise and toxicity but they could not let that worry them - for owning the factory meant that they were able to send their son to a top UK university to gain a Masters in International Law.
Once he'd graduated and found employment, there was far less economic pressure. Their daughter was by this time married and their son-in-law seemed able to provide for her. They began to toy with the idea of selling the business but it was hard to give up the wealth it had brought. It took a terrible car accident two years ago to help them make a decision. Er Jiejie's husband almost died in the crash. Severe head injuries led him to lie in a coma for days and it took several months for him to return to good health and spirits. While he recovered they sold the factory. With some of the profits, they opted to build a modest new home, this time in the small town where Mama, Baba, Dage, San Jiejie and their own daughter live.
These days Er Jiejie spends her days helping her daughter to take care of her two young sons. The family gain immense pleasure from this for the eldest grandson, now five years old, is an exceptionally bright, entertaining boy and the baby is even-tempered and sweet, too. They now live within walking distance of each other and Er Jiejie seems ever willing to help with her two highly energetic grandsons.
She's waiting now for her son to also marry. He is twenty-six and has a girlfriend, a young, overseas educated engineer with whom he lives in Shanghai. Er Jiejie frequently whispers to him to get married as soon as he can. She encourages him to have a baby, too, offering to raise the child in the hometown for the first few years because she knows her son and his wife would still need to build up their careers. I find her perspective incredible for two reasons - first that she would volunteer for such a responsibility but mostly because she doesn't consider the long-term emotional effect being a thousand kilometers away from his parents could have on a child.
Still, what it shows is that to Er Jiejie, and probably many others of her time and place, the nuclear family is still very much an alien concept. It's a very different world, no matter how quickly it is changing...