A Walk Down Memory Lane With Dad

Zhongshan trip, Part I. was about our visit with my grandpa at his convalescent home. The second part of our trip was remarkably special, for we were able to take a walk down memory lane with my dad, in his hometown Zhongshan, China.

Our second day in Zhongshan began with dim sum with several of my dad’s schoolmates from his middle and high school. My dad has always been a sociable person, who makes a conscious effort to stay in close touch with family and friends far and near. Imagine cultivating friendships that last over 60 years! He is also one to constantly be nostalgic about the past, reminiscing upon his early life in China as a child and adolescent. For this reason, he loves traveling to China, particularly Zhongshan, where the familiarity always brings back fond memories.

Honestly, I don’t know why I’ve waited all these years to take a genuine interest in my dad’s adolescence. Growing up, he’s shared stories with us, but never offered to show us his hometown, and we never thought to ask. I think once I became a parent, the word “family” and “history” took on a whole new meaning for me.  Maybe my dad felt it too, so while planning this trip, he finally asked if my sister and I would like to tour his high school in Zhongshan, and to meet his old classmates. Ofcourse, we were beyond excited and responded with an enthusiastic YES!

Dad, always happy to be reunited with his middle and high school classmates

Over dim sum, my dad’s friends shared all kinds of anecdotes about their adolescence. Behind those grey hair and fine lines, we saw the youthful side of them and recognized that once upon a time, they were just like any other mischievous teenager.

Interestingly enough, one of them had eventually became the Principal to the high school that they had attended, and even though he has retired now, he was able to pull some strings to arrange a private tour of the campus for us.

My sister and I were in awe the moment we stepped foot onto the campus. It felt like we were at a college campus in a quiet, suburban town. My dad proudly and excitedly pointed out all the different buildings to us….the library, the science laboratory, the dorm room he lived in, and so on. Many of the buildings have been renovated since he was there nearly 60 years ago, but he still felt deeply rooted to the campus itself.

Our family, at the entrance to dad's high school in Zhongshan, China

Students headed to the cafeteria for lunch
Left: Students air drying their washed clothing outside their dorm rooms

As you cans see from the photos, it really is a pretty magnificent campus for a high school. It is so enormous that we had to get around by a golf cart, and many areas were quite scenic, with willow trees, pagodas and even koi ponds.

Scoping out the hundreds of koi fishes below

If you’ve ever visited an old neighborhood, school, or town that you grew up in, you’ll understand what my dad meant when he said everything looks new but feels old. If you use your heart to feel the space, the memories will naturally come flooding back. Thus, no matter how much renovations have taken place, they can never erase the feelings that the space evokes.

As we walked around the campus, my dad and his friends continued to reminisce with each other. I loved hearing their stories, like how my dad use to be afraid of the dark, so he would always ask one of them to accompany him to the showers inside the dorm. 🙂

This trip also made me realize how valuable it is to hold onto friendships. I so admire the way my dad retains the many friendships in his life. I mean, here he was, with friends that he made 60 years ago…how wonderful is that? They never let the distance made them forget the special times that they once shared in each other’s lives. I wish I would have recognized this long ago…..as admittedly, I have not been very good about staying in close touch with my childhood friends. Thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with them at least on a cyber level, but nothing beats that face to face connection.

After the school tour, we got to eat Zhongshan style cuisine, which was delightfully delicious!

A few more touristy stops before taking the ferry back to Hong Kong…

The girls couldn’t stop pretending that they were Mulan, fighting a war on behalf of their fathers in China. They actually were a little reluctant to leave! But alas, we had to head back to Hong Kong…

Bye-bye Zhongshan! We’ll be back in the near future!

6 Comments

  1. Beautiful photographs, an insight into a life so different to my Western life, but with the same values of friendship and family.

  2. Beautiful story and photos! Thanks for sharing your day and insights. I love your comment that it helped you to realize why friends are important. So true. And so nice for your dad that he has such a great group of them nearby.

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