I was browsing through an old harddrive of mine and found these adorable photos of my grandparents I had once restored for them. I previously did a bunch of color adjustments and removed the little mold spots, but I love how these photos look in their natural aged state and thought I’d share them!
My grandparents have a phenomenal story; one that I’m glad I was “forced” (it was a class assignment in high school) to document. Since I found that old paper on my hard drive as well, I figured I’d share that too. The following essay was written in 2008, my junior year of high school.
My grandma’s life has always fascinated me throughout the years of hearing bits and pieces of her story, from her childhood struggles while living in Taiwan to the time she met my grandpa and ran away to America.
As I interviewed my grandma, she began with a story that I had never known about and was even shocked to hear. She was born in Taiwan in 1937 by the name of “Gold Flower,” and she explained that while her father was drunk one night and talking with a couple who were family friends of theirs, he reportedly gave her up to them. The couple had been trying to have a daughter for several years and admired the family’s newborn baby girl. Because she was the youngest daughter of five others, her father – whether because of his drunken reasoning or simply out of the kindness of his heart – offered to give them his 21-day-old baby. The new family renamed her Shu Ying and treated her especially well, even spoiled her. She recalled that her new parents constantly gave her attention by holding and carrying her everywhere, but because of this, other children at school often picked on her because she had hardly learned to walk. Although the idea of being given away by my own parents was heartbreaking to me, my grandma seemed very happy as she reminisced on her childhood with her adopted family.
World War II was occurring while Shu Ying and her family lived in poverty and suffered a lack of food. The people of a rich Japanese town had fled from their homes to avoid being attacked by Americans. To a family living with just enough to get by, the news of several abandoned, high-end homes seemed like a free opportunity of happiness and pressed Shu Ying and her family to move to an unknown neighborhood along with several other families. The American’s arrival in Taiwan spurred talk of available food, and several people, including her father, went to the docks to support their families. Though food was provided, the American’s also provided a life-changing infection. On April 17, 1948, her mother and father contracted small pox and became victims of the deadly disease that had rapidly begun killing the entire town. Three days later, her parents had both died. She luckily survived the epidemic because the children at her school were required to receive a vaccination, but help was impossible to find as others in the town rejected her in fear of catching what she might have contracted from her infected parents. She was only 10-years-old when her entire life seemed to have fallen apart.
After the death of her parents, Shu Ying was united with a man who claimed to be her uncle in order to acquire the insurance money for taking her in. He and his wife renamed her Belin and they overworked her like a slave, forced her on errands across long distances, and beat her frequently. “That lady, she was so mean; she would kick me every day,” my grandma recalled. She spent several years living under the cruel treatment of these people, from ages 10 to 17. One day, Shu Ying came across a woman who she noticed had a missing finger, much like her aunt she had not seen in several years. The woman recognized her and Shu Ying explained to her the horrible situation she was in with the people she had been staying with for the last few years. Her aunt encouraged her to run away, but the couple had threatened to kill her, so she advised Shu Ying to find a job to eventually provide her with the means to escape.
My grandma’s life finally began to turn around. While soldiers were stationed in Taiwan, she found a job at an American restaurant where she worked with several of her school friends. At age 17, while working as a coat check for American’s, she met Jerry Hobart, an American sailor and photographer for the navy. Because of the exposure she had around American’s, she and her friends began to understand small amounts of English. My grandma and Jerry developed a relationship despite the language barrier and communicated as best they could. When her cruel guardians found out about the relationship, her money-hungry “uncle” forbid her to see him unless he continually paid for her. When my grandma and her boyfriend attempted to get married, a law prevented their unity and Jerry was sent back to America, leaving Shu Ying pregnant and in fear of raising a child on her own. Only a few years later, after the law had been changed, Jerry came back to Taiwan and found Shu Ying. He took her back to the United States where they were married and had two other children.
My grandma has had such a strong impact on me throughout my life and her strength to carry on throughout the horrible events that happened to her are a great inspiration for me when faced with my own challenges.
“I’ve seen enough; nothing can destroy me.”