Last Days of Sugarcane
Written by An-Li Frisk (set in the year 1981, Guangdong province of China)
When a situation was not ideal, my Father and Mother had the persistent idea that we were resilient like the sugar cane crop we grew. I don’t know if it really holds true or if it’s something parents tell to console.
I eyed the setting sun over the vast green of our fields - the sun slowly filtering out of the horizon. If I really think about it, the sun and the cycle of harvest and planting sets the pace of life. A sweet humidity filled the air and there was no longer the beating sun of the day. Before I enjoyed it too much, I crossed the courtyard and into our dwelling. I was invited by the aromas of supper that began to permeate the air and the promise of a full stomach. Arriving before I was called garnered an almost imperceptible appreciation. But I sensed a sad tension in Ma. Before I began to ask, Pa walked in.
Supper carried with it a similar air of solemnity to what I was used to, though this was more so today. Father began to talk. He laid out our future in an even tone: we would not farm anymore, we would move out to a growing city. The government informed him of this - we could not stay - we would have nowhere here anymore. There was no talk of the sugarcane resilience.
Somehow I did not know what to feel - Father explained that we were helping our country become modern. I was open to accept this. My brother, Bingwen, too young to understand, was oblivious, he won’t remember the sugarcane.
It was accepted fate. We did not, and could not fight it or stick it out. Father became a factory worker at an already built factory and our fields, our home, were to be the grounds of a new one.
And I went to a new regional school, which Bingwen will attend once he is of age. I will become an engineer. Mother will have less work now, but I have heard the prospect of her finding a job to fill the newfound time. It’s quite strange, but sugarcane is of the past - we look back on it as one would on a historical spectacle - you could say in our case - a sweet history. We moved into a high-rise apartment on the 7th floor - life now controlled by the repetitive rhythm of money.