Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The One Lumberjack

My grandmother's name was Lau Yat-Chiu and she was born on December 14, 1914 in the year of the Tiger. (Her married name tacked on "Chan" to the front of the name). Literally translated, her name means "One Lumberjack" By western standards i am sure most people would think it odd that a girl would be named "lumberjack", but in those times the tradition was to give your children modest, and even insulting names as a way to give them good luck.

What is interesting however, is the "one" part of her name. My grandmother's name was not given to her at birth, but was given to her by her adoptive mother. My grandmother was born the youngest daughter of a family with 6-7 children, but became the only child of a couple by the time she hit grade school. Popo's mother's sister was childless, and so, Popo's mother gave her youngest child to her childless sister. Her name reflected her new status as the only child, "one", and according to her new parents she was one-of-a-kind. From what i could gather, she saw her birth mother and siblings on a regular basis, and i like to think that instead of losing her birth parents, she gained another set of parents- all to herself.

Her adoptive parents were a bit older, and as common with elderly parents of an only child, popo was spoiled. She was the apple of her father's eye (the owner of a local farmers' tool store in the city) and apparently she could do no wrong. Her feet were originally bound, but after some pleas to her father, he loosed them and she got to keep her feet. And in a remarkable move for the time, she wanted more than just the normal rudimentary education given to chinese girls, and insisted on being able to go to a "Teacher's College." Her father found her a tutor, and she studied to go to a Teacher's College and eventually became a school teacher.