During the Olympics in China, I couldn't help but remember when I traveled to China 40 years ago. It was 1948. I was a little girl, island hopping across the Pacific with my mom and brother toward a country in the midst of civil war. I had no thoughts of war: I just wanted to see my daddy again. He was an Army major, stationed in Nanking with American embassy staff.
To my western eyes, China in ’48 was land of peculiar odors and exotic sights.
In Nanking, we Americans lived enclosed by a wall, and as Mao's forces drew closer, grown-ups began to warn, “Don’t go outside, children. You might run into Communists.” Peering at peasant farmers in padded jackets, I wondered “What’s a Communist?” By October, families were packing. Hurriedly, we took a night train to Shanghai. Then, unexpectedly, my brother got sick, so as others departed, we had to stay. My mom grew increasingly anxious, but I was wide-eyed and excited at the adventure of it all. At last, in November, Jacky was able to travel. On a cold, sunshiny day, we squeezed aboard a ship bound for Yokohama: evacuees from the Chinese civil war.
My father stayed in China another three months, until in March of ‘49, Mao’s troops took possession of Nanking.
It’s a far-different China today, and I have traveled far from the little girl I was in August of ’48. But here's what I have learned: all of life is an incredible journey, filled with the unexpected. Stay wide-eyed and excited by the adventure of it all. It's by far the happiest way to live.