“My MaMa’s Back” — 29 Oak Street Projections

Join us today, September 24, for “Lantern Stories” a lighting exhibition (which features my photo of my 13 year old self and my Hudson Street house) by Yu Wen Wu is launching at Chinatown Gate, 6–7:30 p.m., and at 8–9 p.m., to enjoy program of text, still, and moving image artwork by local artists projected on the brick rowhouse wall of 29 Oak Street, in Boston’s Chinatown.

“My MaMa’s Back,” an excerpt from a longer story called, “Duck,” is a tribute to the Chinese immigrant women garment workers of my Boston Chinatown childhood. The text and the recording, done by me in 2020, the photograph, by my father, Walter Yee, c.1952. In the photo, I sit with my mother inside 133 Hudson Street, our first American home, located where the first American community of Taishanese immigrant families settled after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1945. The subjects are my mother, May Soon Gee Yee, myself, and in the dark shadows, longing,
unseen, my two left behind sisters. Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, my parents were separated for 15 years before I was born. My mother and two older sisters, surviving the Japanese invasion of China, while my father, a US Army Corporal, fought in Europe. My mother entered Boston in 1948, under the War Brides Act of 1945, leaving two daughters behind. My parents’ granddaughter, Sarah Cheung, born in Guangzhou, emigrating to Boston in 1979, translated the text.

《我妈妈的身背》摘自于故事《鸭子》。通过我的波士顿唐人街的童年,为中国移民女服装工人的赞美。文字和录音由我在2020年完成,照片是由我的父亲,余沃尔特1952-53年拍的。照片中,我和母亲坐在哈德逊街133号,这是在1945年废除《排华法》后,我们第一所美国家宅,位于第一个美国社区为台山移民家庭定居的地方。主题是我和母亲,余朱美顺。在那看不见的带着思念的暗影里,是我两个留在中国的姐姐。由于《排华法》,我父母在我出生前分离了15年。我的母亲和两个姐姐,在日军侵华中幸存下来,而我的父亲,一名美国陆军下士,在欧洲作战。根据1945年的《战争新娘法》,我母亲在1948年进入波士顿,留下了两个女儿在中国。我父母的孙女Sarah出生于广州,1979年移民波士顿,翻译了这段叙文。

“My MaMa’s Back” is a voice over photo narration that tells the story of a childhood in a fragmented family, dominated by the ever present sound and rhythm of a sewing machine. Separated by socio-political upheaval, exclusionary laws, war and revolution, three generations meet across time and space in this artistic creation, centering on the sewing together of fabric.

叙文随着缝纫机转动的音节,叙述了童年在一个支离家庭的故事。在这艺术创作中,以布线的缝纫为中心,描写了三代人被社会政治动荡、排除他性法律、战争和革命所离散,又跨越时空而相见。

“My MaMa’s Back”

By Cynthia Yee

What I remember most about my MaMa was her back, her slender back. Bent over fabric. Fabric slithering away through her thin fingers and tiny palms. The needle going up and down, puncturing fabric. Her silk slippered feet, side by side on the pedal, pressed hard, pressed light. Fabric moved fast, fabric moved slow. Machine plugged into magic current. Electricity in old thin walls. I, watching. She, chatting about eggnog and chocolate milk, about White teachers and washing hands, about drunken men and not to fear, money and courage, rice and strength, life and death. She never lifted her head to look at me, never lifted her feet to walk to me, never lifted her hands to caress me. Only her voice, the sound of the machine. Her bent back soothe my childish heart.

When I had been an infant, she’d hoisted me up on her back, bundled me in her silk embroidered bai, had tied me close to her, four cords crisscrossing her breasts, a knot against her heart. My face leaned in, hugging her warm back, I slept. Her hands free, she worked and worked.

4 thoughts on ““My MaMa’s Back” — 29 Oak Street Projections

  1. What an evocation. I can see her slender back, see the child listening. I wish I could see and hear this outside! A brilliant idea for presenting art.

    Like

  2. Cynthia,
    Again, I am loving every word that you write! I can’t wait to read this next piece in its entirety. You are still my favorite writer! Love your descriptions! Love your word choices! Love all your writing!
    Bonnie Y.

    Thank you,🙏🥮❤️ Bonnie!

    Like

  3. Love it ! Typical Cynthia ‘s writing style: descriptive and evocative! Reading the short excerpt you can feel the rhythm of the sewing machine and maternal closeness. Keep on writing and sharing. Thank you.

    Thank you so much, Therese, for reading and commenting! Thanks for your compliments❤️ too!

    Like

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