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Memory of a post-80s generation girl
By Jessie Zhang
Updated: 2008-11-11 15:55

I was born in Beijing in 1982 so I don’t experience the years before China’s reform and opening-up. But I do have a few memories of my childhood, in the early 80’s, when people’s lives were different from previous years in some aspects, and on the other hand, the same with the past.

I can recall residents in my family’s neighborhood all went to buy and store Chinese leaves whenever winter came. I’m not sure people did this for how many years in the 80’s, but I do have clear memory about the scene because I was with my family in the vegetable market for several times.  

Winter in Beijing twenty years ago was much colder than now, but no matter how strong the wind was, how chill the weather was, locals persisted in going to markets to buy Chinese leaves transported by some small trucks. I’m not sure where the trucks came from, but I remember sometimes, I saw some shop assistants with white aprons and hats (the uniforms for assistants in food shops at that time) received money (or food coupons?) and gave Chinese leaves to customers. Those assistants stood on the vegetable piles, surrounded by multiple groups of people near the trucks.

People were all eager to get the Chinese leaves back for winter food. Usually, residents had to start to line at an early time to ensure they could buy the vegetable because no more supplies would come in the same day.  

When people bought the Chinese leaves back, they would put them outside, next to the doors of homes. So piles of the vegetable could be seen in a residential building. You could even guess how many family members a home had based on the numbers of the Chinese leaves.

My grandma cooked delicious Chinese leaves soup for my family in winter and my favorite was enjoying it while watching the Spring Festival gala show on TV. Although we almost did not have any other vegetables to eat in the cold months, I really loved the soup and even now I don’t think no soup can satisfy me with that kind of joy.

Another part of my impressively childhood memory is about bicycles. My father and grandpa rode bicycles to send and collect me from the kindergarten and the elementary school. At that time, parents rode bikes or walked to accompany their children to schools but now, almost all families drive kids to schools. You can see lots of cars parking outside kindergartens and schools. They can enjoy car air-conditioning in summers and winters, and I only started to have such experience in my last year at elementary school when my family bought a second-hand car.

The mention of car air-conditioning reminds me of the hot nights decades ago. Electronic fans and bamboo fans were the family necessities but people often gathered in the yards instead staying at homes at nights to help them distracted from the heat. Children from different residential buildings played with each other, young men often played snooker, and older people chatted with bamboo fans in their hands. Residents almost knew everyone in the neighborhood, which is much different from today’s concrete jungle world, in which one may even doesn’t know the person next door.  

I don’t remember from when the above mentioned scenes began to disappear, but maybe all of them are necessary sacrifices of social process and development. I’m lucky to experience some differences, although not many, which taught me to cherish the happiness of today’s life.

The child is not me~~~