Another Reminder for Kay Bratt

Written by Kay on . Posted in Orphanage Flashbacks

Thanks to many of my online friends, I purchased another Lisa See book and like everyone predicted, fell in love with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The story taught me so much about Chinese history, beliefs and their cultural decisions.

Two specific pages in the book were turned down and marked as special to me. The first brought me to shame for some of the early feelings I had while working in the orphanage, when I would hold a beautiful child and feel a rush of anger at his/her parents. Being knew to the country and not really knowing much of the hardships endured, in my naivete I believed that the parents must not have cared for their child. Here are Lisa See’s words that brought me to tears:

Then we waited. Uncle sat on a stool by the table and wept so hard into her tunic that stains spread across the fabric like rain clouds. Baba tried to comfort Uncle, but what was the use? He could not be comforted. Anyone who tells you that the Yao people never care for their daughters is lying. we may be worthless. We may be raised for another family. But often we are loved and cherished, despite our natal families’ best efforts not to have feelings for us. Why else in our secret writing do you see phrases lke “I was a pearl in my father’s palm” so frequently?

The second excerpt brought back a flood of memories to me. First read Lisa’s words and then go back and remember with me.

“Lady Lu, a cure is not possible,” he said. “All you can do now is wait for the onset of death. You can see it already in the purple tint of her flesh just above her bindings. First, her ankles; then the legs will come next, swelling and turning the skin purple as her life force slows. Soon, I suspect, her breathing will change. You’ll recongnize it. An inhale, and exhale, then nothing. Just when you think she is gone she will take another breath.”

That passage instantly took me back to the day I stood in front of a crib of a dying child. Her eyes were already checked out, she was not able to focus on anything but her pain. Knowing she was too sick for me to hold, I gently rubbed her back and whispered encouragement to her. As I peeked under her coverlet, the purplish/black color of her feet, ankles and legs sent shivers of shock down my spine. At that time, I did not understand that it was the onset of death. When she disappeared a day or so later and no one would tell me where she was, I knew then that she had passed on. It feels strange for me to say this, because not many people would understand, but I was thankful for her release from her circumstances–from her relentless pain.

Why would I enjoy a book that brings back such sad memories for me? Perhaps because if the memories still linger, that means I won’t forget the children and my promise to continue to tell their stories.

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Comments (1)

  • Joanne


    This is one of my favorite books! I feel like I learned so much about the Chinese culture. I have started a collection of books for Mia and this one is just wonderful. I can imagine how it brings back so many memories for you ~


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