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Vignettes of My Father by Peter Li (Rutgers University)

It is proverbially difficult for a son to write about his father. The relationship is difficult to characterize because it combines love, respect, rivalry, competition, mentoring, envy and trepidation. Dad taught me how to play ping-pong at the tender age of five or six and it was my passion for many years even now. I remember we competed fiercely later after I became a more proficient player. He bought my sister and me our first tennis racquets when we were teenagers and ever since tennis has been my obsession even to this day. As I look back now, he did not play very well in those days, but he got us started. He took us to our first classical music concerts at the University of Washington in Seattle soon after we arrived there in 1949. Since then the enjoyment of good music has greatly enriched our lives. Later we were given music lessons: my sister Lindy studied the piano and I took violin lessons and this continued through our high school years. His attempt to guide me to read Dickens, however, was less successful. I just could not finish David Copperfield, which he told me to read, no matter how hard I tried. Instead, I found Somerset Maugham, Jules Verne and other science fiction stories much more interesting. Maybe one of these days, now that I am in retirement, I’ll complete reading David Copperfield. Yes, it’s true, he never talked to us much about his area of specialty, linguistics. Maybe that’s why none of his children followed in his footsteps.

 As I’m writing this reminiscence, I am reminded of the female character June in Amy Tan’s novel Joy Luck Club, when she was asked to tell her long separated sisters about her mother. She blurted out, “But I don’t know her!” Her mother’s friend was incredulous, “How can you not know your own mother! She’s in you bones!” But she’s right. There is a sense of bewilderment when you are asked to talk about someone close to you. 

On the other hand, how can you not know your own parents, your father and your mother? They are in your “bones”, in your blood. These days often when I look in the mirror, I am shocked to note the resemblance of between me and my Dad, now that I’m in my seventies. However, when I’m asked to write about him, it is with great trepidation that I pick up my pen; it’s difficult to know where to begin. I am overwhelmed. But let me begin with the year that I was born.

When I was born in 1935, Dad was thirty-three, already a distinguished scholar. Therefore, I never knew him as a young man. By the time that I came to know him he had already established himself as a world renowned scholar. Maybe not as renowned as he would became later, but he certainly was recognized as a rising star in the field of Chinese linguistics. I remember, probably in 1963, when he became president of the American Linguistics Society, I was in the audience as he gave the inaugural speech at Indiana University. It was quite an impressive occasion; there were probably a thousand people in the large auditorium where he spoke. Although I don’t remember much of what he said, I do remember Mother whispering to him to speak up when he gets on the lectern. As Mother knew ahead of time, he did not speak very loud, as was his habit, or he was not facing the microphone. In either case, I don’t remember hearing or understanding much of what he said.

My earliest memories of him were that he would be away from home for long periods of time. It was probably during the time that we lived in Longtoucun 龍頭村 in Yunnan or Lizhuang 李莊, Sichuan. He was away on his numerous field trips to record the languages of ethnic minorities in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, etc. While he was away, my favorite pastime during those days was spending many hours playing in a large empty courtyard that had a rectangular concrete structure in middle. I think it was for holding water. But at the time there was no water in it, in fact it was cracked, and a large piece was dislodged. But I just liked to hang out there playing with broken pieces of bricks and roof tiles lying around. I later become skilled in grinding toy tanks and battleships out of those pieces of bricks and tiles. 

Dad’s method of raising us was very hands off. He was not particularly concerned about how we were doing in school. Education was more Mother’s concern. I suppose his philosophy was that you had to find out for yourself what you’re good at; no one can help you except yourself. Once you dedicate yourself to it, then your future will take care of itself. When Dad’s student would ask him, what can I do if I study Chinese; Dad’s answer would be if you’re good at it, you don’t have to worry. If you’re not good at it, then you’re in trouble no matter what field you’re in. Dad was a fujiang福將 himself; he had a very pampered childhood. From the day that he was born, his head never touched a pillow until the age of two or three. He was carried day and night by nursemaids and servants. Maybe this was the reason why he became such a good-natured person. He never complained nor competed with anyone; nor was he jealous of anyone. He just kept his nose to the grindstone and did what he was good at. As a consequence, slowly but surely his accomplishments accumulated.

Aside from his academic accomplishments, Dad was good at all sorts of intellectual games. He was a wiz at mahjong. Since the age of seven or eight he would stand in for his father at the mahjong table. These mahjong players were colleagues of his father, learned men and high officials, but he could hold his own with them. If you don’t know about his mahjong skills, then you might know about his skills at bridge. This I know personally when we were living in Chengdu. Bridge was one of the few pastimes that the intellectuals like Dad, professors, doctors and other professionals, took pleasure in. Dad was always a much sought after player in those days. The unusual thing is that these games seem to come to him naturally; he did not need much instruction or practice.

But I do remember him seriously learning weiqi 圍棋 (go in Japanese) when he took up the game. This was when we were living in Seattle, Washington where we settled in 1949. After he came home, following a full day at the office, he would relax and take out his weiqi manual and start placing the stones on the board. It was not his habit to talk to us much after he came back from the office. We would bring him his usual cup of tea after he got home and that was it. Then he would go into his study and set up his weiqi and play by himself. These games would go on for hours on end—the manual in one hand and a white or black stone in the other ready to be placed on the board. Mother would call out from the kitchen that supper was ready, but nothing happened. He did not budge; the game occupied his full attention. Finally, after several unsuccessful attempts at getting him to the dining room table, Mother would burst into the room, lift up the chess board, and scatter the stones on the floor. From this experience, I have learned never to cross the head of the household when supper time came around. Whenever, I would hear Mother, or now Marjorie, call from the kitchen that supper’s ready, I would drop everything and make a bee line of the kitchen. 

Perhaps because of his childhood and war experience, my father was always frugal man. He never had much money in his pocket. One reason may be that Mother managed all the finances. He did not have any expensive habits, nor desired any luxuries. His books and his work were sufficient to keep him happy and contented. But when it came to us children, he never begrudged us anything. During those days that we were in Seattle, I began to study the violin rather seriously. I was getting to be more proficient as I had a good teacher in Stanley Spector, a graduate student in Chinese history at the University of Washington at the time. He later became a specialist on Li Hongzhang. Stanley was originally trained as a musician, but because of a war time injury to his hand, gave up his career as a violinist and studied to become a Sinologist instead. Through someone’s kind introduction, he became my first serious teacher who taught me how to feel the music rather than just mechanically playing the notes. When he heard that I was looking for a good violin, he told Dad that his musician friend, Simon Goldberg, wanted to sell his violin. But the price was $300.00! In those days, three hundred dollars was no mean sum of money for us. Regular mail was going for 3 cents, a loaf of bread 16 cents, and a gallon of gasoline 33 cents! I remember Dad always, without fail, asked for $2.00’s worth of gasoline whenever he went to the gas station. And I remember going to summer camp, for a full eight weeks, for $250.00. To make a long story short, Dad bought the violin for me. It must have taken a big chunk out of his salary. That was in the early 1950s. There was never a word of complaint about the cost. I took violin lessons all through high school and played in the Youth Symphony Orchestra in Seattle. I still have the violin today. It’s a little worse for wear and tear but still eminently playable. That was 56 years ago.

Another expensive item that I asked for on impulse was a Leica camera. From the mid-fifties on, I left Seattle to study at the University of Chicago following in Dad’s footsteps some quarter of a century later. My academic career at Chicago, however, was not all smooth sailing. Dad received his degrees in quick succession, graduated from the University of Michigan in 1926, received his Master’s Degree in 1927 and Ph.D. in 1928 from the University of Chicago in two consecutive years. And he studied with stellar professors in the field, Leonard Bloomfield and Edward Sapir. My career at Chicago dragged out for over ten years with three year’s interruption when I joined the U.S. Army. I finally received my Ph.D. in 1972 after the department decided to kick me out. One summer in the fifties, when Dad at teaching at the University of Chicago, he told me that he was going to a conference in Germany. He asked me what I would like from Europe. I said without much hesitation “How about buying me a Leica camera?” I did not really believe that I would get it. Well, at the end of summer, Dad came home with a Leica in hand as a present for me. Again, a Leica was the most expensive camera in those days. I was surprised and overwhelmed. I used that camera for many years, until it got eclipsed by the new digital cameras.

In thinking about my understanding of my father, I remember reading Professor South Coblin’s remembrance of Dad several years back. South was truly Dad’s zhiji 知己, he knows and understands my father as much as anyone possibly can. And Dad does not open up easily to people, but I believe that South was one of those who got to know him. I was amazed by many of his insights. Dad was low-keyed, with subtle sense of humor and a man of few words, guayan寡言. But his prodigious memory never fails to amaze people. He may not always remember people’s names, but his knowledge of history, literature, music, philosophy, art is remarkable. But, at home and on most social occasions, he is quiet. He seems oblivious to what is going on around him. He is the epitome of the absent minded professor. My mother often made the observation that it a good thing Dad never became a doctor. (He was once a pre-med student.) If he did, who knows how many patients he would have harmed by his absentmindedness.

In our two families, the Y.R. Chao’s and the F.K. Li’s, there’s a favorite joke about the two famous linguists, Dad and Y.R. Chao. Both of these men have very articulate wives. When our two families get together, you would hear the two wives talking up a storm. Actually, most of the time it’s Mama Chao. The two linguists would sit quietly listening with satisfied smiles on their faces. The two women may not be linguists, but they were certainly masters of the spoken language. Once when our two families got together and Mrs. Chao began discoursing on this and that, she would suddenly remember that Fang-kuei and Yuan-ren were supposed to discuss some question about linguistics and both were there listening to her talk. She turned to Y.R., who was sitting beside her, “Aren’t you and Fang-kuei supposed to talk to each other about your linguistic problem? Why are you sitting here?” Y.R. would answer, “Yes, we’ve talked already. We’re done.” They were finished in couple of minutes.

Dad and mother are a study in contrast. Mother is very sociable and articulate, she is never tongue-tied. On occasions when she is asked to say something at banquets and parties, she always pleases the audience with her human interest stories and observations. Father, on the other hand, is rather reserved and does not have much to say. When called upon to say a few words, his remarks are short, like “I am Li Fang-kuei, a linguist, and I teach at the University of Washington” and that’s it. Well, maybe for him that’s all that’s necessary since everyone knows who he is any way. Mother, on the other hand, is a great storyteller and conversationalist. She has a good sense of humor and love telling a good story and a joke or two. When she tells her stories, she would make the whole room burst out in laughter. And father would smile with satisfaction. Whenever mother was in the mood to tell a joke, we would all encourage her. And often times, she would burst out laughing herself even before she told the story. Her favorite story was about a fastidious bald man who goes to a barber shop to get a haircut. But he has only three hairs left (like Sanmao三毛). She would be laughing so hard afterwards that she would wipe away her tears. Even though we had heard the story before, when she told it, we would all laugh as if we were hearing it for the first time. Her delivery was unique and a joy to hear. As the late Professor Fritz Mote once remarked, “I think Mrs. Li speaks the most beautiful Mandarin that I have ever heard.” And he always wanted to make a recording of my mother speaking, but unfortunately he never did.

Dad’s personality is always somewhat of a puzzle to me. He does not open up very often. Only on rather few occasions does he talk about himself. Most of the time he is lost in thought, absorbed in his linguistic puzzles. Only when you ask him something does he have anything to say and usually it’s a syllable or two. At times, even when there were guests at home, I have noticed him remaining silent rather than engaging in social chit chat as people usually do. I remember that he liked talking to Marjorie though. It was shortly after the birth of our second daughter, Caroline (nicknamed Yuanbao given to her by Yeh-yeh) in 1980 when we were living in Rochester, NY for the year. They would sit in the kitchen and talk for hours on end. I don’t remember what they were talking about since I was preoccupied with my work at the time.

I recall on some mornings, while we lived in Seattle, at the table before I left for school, Dad and I would sit in silence eating breakfast. He had classes at 8 o’clock in the morning. By the way, I think he was always a little late. Because I know he never left on time. We would sit at the table eating; Dad would be having his coffee and smoking a cigarette. He was a chain smoker until his by-pass operation in 1982. In any case, he would be muttering different sounds, like dental sibilants, glottal stops, etc. to himself. I think it was either was for the language class that he was going to teach that morning, or for a paper that he was writing. I was never able to tell.

Some of you probably know that Dad was an accomplished painter of the flowers and insects in the literati style—not gongbi (palace style) painting. Again this is a talent that he does not often talk about nor does he show off. But when the right moment came with the right company, he would pick up a brush and paint. I still have a hua-ce (畫冊) that he painted when he was a young man in his thirties or forties. The hua-ce is constructed in the accordion fold style, or a zhezi (摺子) (all the pages are folded together) so that there are no loose pages. In case you paint something poorly, you cannot tear it out. All the paintings therefore have to be well executed. If you did make a mistake, then the huace is ruined. Therefore, you must have a high degree of proficiency before you would attempt one of these. Dad did one of these and I have the huace. I don’t know exactly when he did these painting. But I think in was during the 1930s or 40s when he was in China. Later he had his good friends inscribe poems or essays (tizi題字) on the opposing page to the painting. There were altogether 15 paintings, and most of them have the calligraphy of his friends and acquaintances.

The source of Dad’s artistic talent was his mother, nee He, who was a painter in the court of the Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧太后). We do not know whether he was formally taught to paint, or he just learned through watching his mother paint. It is one more of the mysteries concerning my father.

As you have probably gathered by now, Dad has been a kind of puzzle to me. He is not the most easy person to understand or get to know. It is much easier when it comes to his accomplishments in linguistics. But when it comes to understanding him as a person, it is more complex. He is like a jewel that has many surfaces. It scintillates when you look at it from the proper angle. If you don’t look at it from the right angle, then it does not shine. If you ask him the right questions at the right time, he will open up. But if you don’t ask the right question or at the wrong time, he does not respond. I think I have come to a clearer understanding of him through writing this vignette of Dad. Being the son of a famous father, the most difficult thing was to live up to his expectations. It was not that he demanded great things from you, but it was that you simply did not want to disappoint him. And that was not always easy. He probably would not approve of the essay that I have written here! 

Peter Li
May 10, 2006
Oakland, CA.




        “領弟, 上山叫 Daddy 吃晚飯!” 媽媽嗓音帶火, 連連催著我. 雖然有女佣打下手, 媽媽總是親自掌勺,從買, 摘, 洗, 切, 調 料, 最後下鍋, 忙了一下午. 飯都上桌了還不見人影, 難怪她冒火.
        “噯….就去.” 六歲的我﹐一蹦一跳的朝著艷紅的落日往院子外頭跑.
        那個時代農村沒有路燈, 可是雲南鄉下 農民有個習俗, 傍晚在田坎交界的地方點三支香, 一方面敬鬼神, 一方面給人指路. 於是我順著若隱若現 的紅香 頭向龍頭村外對面的小山上走去.
        到了辦公室, 看見父親叼著香煙, 坐在書桌前面的一把一動就吱吱響的藤椅上, 眼鏡推到額頭上面, 就著黃昏最後 的一線光 還在看書.
        “Daddy, 吃飯啦. 不回去媽要生氣了.”
        “哦….”, 繼續看書. 我說了兩三次, 他“哦”了兩三次, 繼續看書.
        我從他腋下躦到他蓋 上坐好. 拿起一支鉛筆….抗戰時期鉛筆算貴重的用具…..趴在書桌上胡亂在一張紙上畫畫兒. 父親 往後仰一仰, 把看的紙張挪到我背後繼續看. 父女倆直到天完全黑了才手拉手, 父親的長腿邁一步我的短腿奔兩步的趁著月光下山.
        到家當然兩人一起挨罵. 媽媽一邊埋怨, 一邊把燈草捻子撥亮一點, 一邊張羅熱飯熱菜. 看到父女 二人把親手作的菜餚都吃了個乾淨, 臉上才帶著得意的神情 叫人收拾盤碗.
        那是1939年﹐我們一家從美國回到戰亂的祖國, 到了昆明城外的一個地圖上找不出來的小村, 龍頭村(現稱龍泉鎮), 住了下來. 父親早在1929年就是中央研究院, 歷史語言研究所,語言學組的研究員. 史語所, 從南京遷移到這個偏僻的地區來, 是為了躲避日本飛機轟炸, 保護考古發掘出來的文物, 和田野調查得來的語言資料. 那時候龍頭村是個很閉塞的農村, 和現在已經規劃到昆明市的郊區的龍泉街 (云南話 “街” 讀 “該”)大不一樣. 這個小村坐落在稻田和起伏的山巒之間. 我們住的是夯土牆 的茅屋, 下雨時上漏下淹. 燒的是柴禾, 乾樹枝; 泛潮濕時煙嗆得鼻眼淚流. 沒有報紙; 要知道國家大事﹐世界 大局, 聽聽天上有沒有飛機. 看看是中國的, 還是美國的, 還是敵人的. 沒有商店; 買吃的就 得每四五天趕集, 或者自己種, 自己養. 我們的房子前面 就是一片菜 園子. 菜園子旁邊還有個小屋養著雞, 鵝, 和一支修短了翅羽 的野雉雞.
        這個小村雖然簡陋, 落後, 可是戰爭卻給它帶來了意外的文明. 今年夏天(07/29/ 2002)我 到龍頭村尋訪舊居, 已拆的無蹤無影1, 卻在村委辦公室找到以下一段錄自馮友蘭 三松堂自序裡面的記載:
        “….有些人 (指史語所研究人員)就在老鄉們屋前屋後空地上蓋了簡易的房子, 同老鄉訂下合同, 將來走的時候, 所蓋的房子就無償歸此地主所有. 這樣龍泉鎮就成了當時的一個文化中心了.” (轉載昆明歷史村鎮系列叢書.) 對我們孩子來說龍頭村可是個不錯的地方. 這兒沒有學校, 當然就不用上學! 每天在媽媽監督之下 背完幾首唐詩, 寫兩篇大字, 就下課了.
        小的時候只聽說父親是個語言學家, 並不知道什麼是語言學…. 大概和文字有關係吧. 父親的臉, 鼻子, 總是埋在書堆, 紙張裡. 眼鏡經常是推到額頭上, 像第二雙眼睛. 嘴裡叼著煙捲兒或煙斗兒, 不怎麼說話. 在我的記憶裡﹐那時的父親是個中等身材的人, 不胖也不瘦. 其實他一生沒有太瘦過, 也沒有發胖過. 年老發現心肌梗塞後醫生叫他戒煙﹐但從來沒有叫他減過肥. 他天生長方臉﹐鼓臉堂﹐高額頭﹐挺鼻梁. 從來沒有聽人家稱他是美男子. 但我總覺得他的男子少壯派頭﹐粗線條裡露出富有靈性的書卷氣﹐比別人的白面書生的爸爸瀟灑. 雖有點書呆子氣﹐可是也打得一手好乒乓球﹐踢的好毽子﹐還可以左右兩腳踢﹐踢得高高的再跳起來從腿下面踢過來. 他的辦公室在一片稻田對面的半山坡, 經常忘記該回家吃晚飯的時間. 那時我弟弟才四歲, 上山叫父親吃飯就是我的任務. 去找他時, 不是在看書就是在寫字. 但是他那時從來沒有過問我和弟弟的功課.


        現在不大能想象沒有電冰箱怎麼過日子. 可是六十多年前,中國根本沒有這東西. 沒有冰箱的好處就是吃的東西絕對新鮮. 鄉下地方糧食蔬菜不成問題, 魚肉就只有趕集的日子才有的賣. 平常如要 吃點肉類就必須八里九里的跑到城市裡去買, 或宰殺自己飼養的. 注重營養的人家, 尤其是注意 兒童營養的人家就 認為蛋白質食品是天天要給孩子們吃的. 當然豆腐也屬於高蛋白質的食品, 但是豆腐也和肉一樣容易腐爛, 所以連豆腐都是集日才有的吃. 可是趕集也得學會竅門兒. 母親和所裡的主婦們發現狡猾的販子, 會在抵達市集以前坐在路邊, 往雞鴨的砂囊裡塞喂細砂石, 以賣時增加重量. 如果買了活的雞鴨回來預備過一天再宰, 那雞鴨不到夜晚就奄奄一息了. 因此要買到能活的還必須提早跑到較遠的路上, 截買.
        我們家當然是注意營養的, 所以前院子裡種了隨時採摘的蔬菜. 還買了小雞小鵝預備養大了下蛋吃, 或宰了吃. 第一批小雞連聲音都沒吭出來就全被黃鼠狼吃掉了. 第二批就天天晚上轟到屋裡扣在筐子底下. 等他們大了一點才關到院子裡的雞房裡. 可是還是有黃鼠狼來襲擊. 夜裡一聽見雞房裡有聲響, 父親就起床拿著竹杆子去打黃鼠狼. 打是沒有見他打著過﹐把它們轟走罷了. 久而久之父親對這群雞鵝有了感情. 早上第一件事就是把雞和鵝放出來數數看少了沒有. 然後喂飼完了才上班去. 下班回 家時又去喂它們. 所以他每天回家第一批歡迎他的隊伍就是雞和鵝. 後來有一隻雛鵝長大了, 雪白的羽毛, 高高的紅冠子, 變成一隻凶悍無比的雄鵝. 我們小孩, 客人, 送菜的老劉, 都被它那有鋸齒, 鐵鉗一般的扁嘴咬住不放, 還把頭轉過來擰著. 它可不但不啄父親, 還接過保護家禽的任務. 自此父親不用夜裡起來打黃鼠狼了.
        有一次父親作田野考查回家帶了一隻野雉雞, 說是一個苗語報導人捉到送給他的. 野雞 的羽毛黑光閃綠, 頭上有冠, 後面有二尺多長的劍尾. 揚著頭﹐邁著官步﹐非常美麗, 神氣. 可是跟家禽放在一起總是寡不敵眾﹐老是受欺負. 尤其一隻大公雞把野雞背上啄禿了一片. 有一早我還沒有起床就聽見院子裡聲音大亂. 爬起來出門一看, 父親笑嘻嘻的跳著一隻光腳倚著籬笆. 大公雞頭上套著父親的一隻布鞋, 滿院子飛奔著橫沖直闖. 所有的家禽啼叫著四面飛逃. 此番教訓以後大公雞的行為就比較檢點. 父親在院子裡的時候它總是一溜煙躲開.
        父親常常出去做調查語言的田野工作. 一去就是個把月. 每次回來總帶一些有趣兒的東西給我和弟弟. 有一次帶回來的是黑色石刻的小蛤蟆. 打磨的光滑發亮. 他告訴我們是活的蛤蟆變的! 又有一次我們住在成都的時候, 他帶回來一隻小狗熊. 鄰居小孩都圍著看熱鬧. 這隻狗熊拴在院子裡大樹下, 三四個月就長的很大了. 終於有一天獸性發了. 我早上上學以前總是去看看它. 這一天走近時被他一爪子把書包抓了個稀爛. 可是父親在的時候它從來不敢發野. 不知道和父親屬虎有沒有關係. 這以後父親就牽著它送到少城公園動物園去了.


        1940年, 日本佔領了緬甸, 通昆明的公路吃緊﹐跟著轟炸昆明. 中央研究院歷史語言研究所又一度遷移, 到了四川, 宜賓下游的李莊. 這又是個地圖上找不到的小山村兒. 考古組在山下的鎮裡, 語言組在山上板栗坳. 不記得有什麼板栗, 卻有非常好吃的龍眼. 從鎮裡到山上是曲折的羊腸小道﹐一個多鐘頭的山路. 運輸與交通完全靠腳力﹐挑擔子, 抬轎子, 推雞公車等等. 買菜就更不方便了. 鄉下地方雖有其樂趣﹐但是長期住著生活就有點單調, 尤其是吃的方面. 蔬菜水果都有一定的季節﹐但是種類不多. 是某種菜果上市的季節, 就每天都是一樣的菜餚.
        李莊有四大賢, 都是曾經留學到歐美的: 傅斯年(歷史), 李濟之(考古), 梁思成 (建築), 和我父親李方桂(語言). 其實還有一位大賢是甲骨文研究之鼻祖董作賓先生. 但可能他沒有留學海外, 沒有列入這一班. 這四家有點 “洋派兒” 的主婦們就想在飲食方面出點兒新花樣. 她們合起來向農民租了一小塊地, 種了一片西紅柿. 種籽的來歷我原本不知道. 可是無巧不成書: 今年在北京, 李光謨先生(濟之先生之長公子)見到此文, 給我提供了以下的第一把手資料.
        原來1943年初, 李濟之到成都出差時, 收到梁思成一封信.信中除了提到考古與建築的學術問題之外, 還有這一段:
        “….成都金陵大學農場各種種籽甚佳, 弟擬懇帶西紅柿種籽一包, 歸來行筐中似尚可容下耶? 勞駕勞駕….” (載于 “李濟與友人通信選輯”) 2.         這可以算中國食植物傳播史中一個小腳註吧 . 那時當地的農民還沒見過這種像果子的蔬菜. 看起來紅紅的,可是吃 起來 酸酸的, 都不喜歡. 雖然小小的一片, 可是到了成熟季節, 一串串紅紅﹐黃黃﹐吃也吃 不完. 送朋友嘛也送不完 , 因此吃不完的都得扔掉.
        這一年夏天, 媽媽帶著弟弟培德去重慶探望外祖母. 我和父親留在李莊伺奉祖母. 七八月間正是板栗坳最悶熱的季節. 紅嘟嘟亮烘烘的西紅柿一串一串的墜下來. 父親著我去摘了好幾大籃, 吃也吃不完, 甩掉又可惜. 父親靈機一動說他教我作番茄醬. 于是我坐在灶頭司火, 爸爸穿著汗衫煮西紅柿,一邊撈籽兒, 一邊挑皮兒. 兩人搞的滿頭大汗. 現在不記得弄了多少罐, 好吃不好吃. 只記得給我們燒飯的劉嫂心疼柴禾.
        除了熬番茄醬﹐那年夏天是我第一次﹐也是最後一次看見父親和祖母一起作畫. 祖母何兆英 (號靈石女史, 1867-1948) 婚前曾是清宮中慈禧太后的代筆之一, 專功花卉 3. 這一個炎熱的夏日, 母子興致忽然到來, 爸爸就研墨調色, 兩人畫起勾骨菊花來.
        我的祖母是個非常小巧的老太太. 我印象最深的是她乳白細潤的皮膚(可惜沒有遺傳給我). 雖然臉上已有皺紋, 臉皮倒象一圈圈凝固了的奶油. 灰白的短髮剪到齊耳根. 總是紋絲不亂的梳在耳後. 這種髮型在那一輩的女子中算是很摩登的. 可是一雙粽子形的小腳 (幸虧沒有加刑到我), 走路時身子稍向前傾, 兩臂搖擺, 又是很老派的. 這當然不是她自己選擇的. 祖母雖然是在傳統教條下成長, 但是思想很先進, 強調新式教育. 她把三個孩子們都栽培到大學畢業, 連二姑李漪 (父親的姐姐)都是醫學院生理學畢業的. 顯然三個兒女中父親是她最寵愛的一個.
        父親沒有正式學過畫, 但是可能年幼時偶而看過祖母畫, 加上天賦吧. 雖然沒有見他練畫,可是一筆下來總是淡雅清新. 西式水彩畫也是不學自通. 1938年, 父親在康州新港, 耶魯大學 (Yale)任教時, 母親選了一門美術課消遣. 課題是水彩畫. 老師週末帶著學生到郊外寫生, 父親若沒有課也跟著去畫. 因為找不到保姆就把五歲的我和三歲的弟弟都一起帶去. 我記得那位美術老師經常把沒有註冊而來蹭課的爸爸的畫, 拿來當著全班學員大大的稱讚.
        那一年冬天, 不知為什麼父母心血來潮想畫冬景, 於是駕車到一座小橋旁停下, 畫那冰湖和枯樹的倒影. 我和弟弟站在橋上喝西北風凍了個把小時, 鼻青臉紅. 翌年我們一家就回到了戰亂的祖國. 這張水彩冬景隨我們逃難奔波了五十多年, 現在還掛在我書房壁上. 照像簿裡還有一張兩個小孩面對面, 在橋上低語的小照. 今年 (2002)我到新港探望朋友, 驅車經過那座小橋. 早春四月, 天氣微寒, 湖對面正待抽芽的樹枝還枯著, 水面倒影, 儼如當年.


        1944年, 我們離開李莊, 搬到成都. 戰時燕京大學從北平遷移到成都. 父親被燕大借聘教英文和語言學. 成都是內地的大城市. 我們小孩子在鄉下住了五六年, 早已忘記城市是什麼樣子了. 到了成都被它的繁華搞的眼花繚亂. 滿街汽車, 黃包車,滑杆兒, 腳踏車, 對我來說都很新奇. 因為在李莊的山區住了兩年﹐把這些有軱轆的交通工具給忘記了.
        我們在成都的第一個住所是在城裡的陝西街. 燕京大學租了當地大戶人家的大花園, 分成小單元, 供教職員住宿. 我們住的院子就在一家餐館隔壁. 這家餐館名字非常風雅, 叫 “不醉無歸小酒家”. 每天傍晚我們看著男男女女的客人說笑著進去, 大醉酩酊的出來; 卻 從來不知餐館道裡面是什麼樣子, 什麼叫宴席.
        在成都我和弟弟都插班進了正式的學校. 不但入學, 還入了相當有水平的華西壩小學. 從陝西街走到城外,穿過華西壩到學校需要步行40多分鐘. 如果在路上遇見同學說說笑笑, 停下來玩, 買零嘴吃, 往往就會遲到. 遲到麼就會挨罰. 放學後得打掃課堂, 擦完黑板, 才許回家. 我常常挨罰. 因為在龍頭村和李莊的幾年沒有正式的學校, 某些功課, 如數學, 自然, 地理, 什麼的, 就趕不上了. 因此下課以後就得留校接受補習. 對我來說這不等於挨罰麼? 所以也就不管遲到不遲到了, 樂得在路上玩.
        有一次補習時間特別長.下了課天已半黑, 濃雲密佈, 眼看要下雨. 忽然一個霹靂, 雷聲大作, 電閃得天空裂開一般. 嚇得我抱頭躲在學校的茅檐下, 想趕快回家, 但又不敢開步走. 正在猶豫, 看見父親氣喘喘的趕來接我了. 我們剛走到路上雷雨霹靂而至. 父親拉著我跳上一輛黃包車. 因為抗戰時期一般公教人員的收入都比較緊. 我們很少花錢坐車. 所以這一次坐車給我留下的印象特別深刻.
        車伕放下前面的油布車蓬, 直奔城裡. 我記得濠雨擂鼓似的落在車蓬上. 一下打雷, 一下閃電, 只看見車伕兩隻穿著草鞋的腳, 在車蓬底下比呀咭﹐比呀咭的濺著泥水一起一落. 閃電一從車蓬透進來, 我就嚇得把耳朵蒙起來往父親懷裡躦. 他一邊摟著我一邊叫我不要怕. 一向倔強的我害怕得哭了. 父親叫我別哭, 哄著我, 教我唱歌. 我摀著耳朵抗議不要學唱歌. 也不知為了什麼父親別出心材唱起德文的藝術歌曲來. 我越哭, 他越唱的響. 不知不覺的我也跟著唱起來, 也忘記怕了. 待車拉到陝西街, 雷聲, 雨聲, 歌聲, 交加. 父女兩個在車裡高聲唱著德國詩人亨立士.海涅 (Heinrich Heine) 的詩歌, 題為 《在一個涼爽 的地方》 “In einem kűhlen Grunde”:
                在一個涼爽的地方,          In einem kűhlen Grunde,
                水車在那兒慢慢的轉.      Da geht ein Műhlen Rad.
                我心愛的人兒,                Mein Liebe ist
                已經不見了.                   verschwunden
                他曾經住在那裡….         Die dort gewohnen hat….
        一陣雷雨過了, 天也晴了﹐到家了. 父女的歌聲卻沒有停.


        “剪不斷﹐理還亂﹐悶無端…..” 4
        近日接到某君的電郵訂購中國演唱文藝年刊. 信後附N今春已去世的消息. 我和N有半個世紀沒有通消息, 他享年該是八十二, 三歲吧. 他走時頭髮是花白的呢, 還是禿光了的呢? 他晚年是個胖子, 還是個瘦老頭兒呢? 腦海裡湧浮出來的形像卻是個細高個兒, 寬腦門子, 談笑風生, 浪漫倜儻的青年.
        我和父親之間如果算有什麼矛盾, 怨緣, 也就是數N的事件吧.
        中日抗戰以後, 1947年, 我們全家從成都再次漂洋過海來到異鄉. 未滿十五歲的我, 已遍跡四川云南, 橫渡太平洋來回兩次. 老實話講, 我並不樂意這第二次的越洋遠行, 雖然很多同學們都很羨慕我們去美國. 因為好不容易在成都惡性補習把功課趕上了, 現在又要接受另一個生疏的語言的補習. 這次肯定要留級了, 多丟人. 再者, 自從中日抗戰時代逃難開始, 我們家從來沒有在任何一個地方住過兩年以上. 從云南, 四川, 美國東岸, 到西岸, 在當地又搬家數次. 我和弟弟差不多每一年都換一個陌生的學校, 陌生的老師, 陌生的同學, 沒有一個穩定的成長環境.
        我們一家總是隨著父親的事業奔走.他的全副精神則是投入學術研究. 而且他好像從來沒有為妻子帶著小孩奔波的艱辛著想, 或為我和弟弟學業的耽擱有所考慮. 但是母親從來不願意和父親分離, 沒有怨言. 只記得一次母親發脾氣了. 那是剛搬到李莊的第一個炎熱的夏天, 一時還找不到幫工. 母親把一家大小的晚飯打發完了, 又熱又累, 坐下用圍裙擦臉上的汗. 父親卻叼著煙捲兒若無其事的問: “茶呢?”
        母親忍不住吵起來, 說他 “從來不為家事抬一個手指頭. 只會飯來張口, 茶來伸手, 連一個雞蛋也不會煮, 一壺開水都不會燒!” 父親不甘示弱, 嚷說才怪, 他根本會燒水. 母親把水壺往他面前一摜, 他提起水壺氣沖沖地往外走. 剛出廚房門口就溜回來偷偷問我和弟弟:
        “水在哪兒?” 被母親聽見了破涕為笑.
        來到美國的第一年, 父親在麻省劍橋, 哈佛大學從事研究. 第二年,1948, 父親第二次接受耶魯大學之聘. 對於一個年輕的學者, 這何嘗不是個很大的榮譽. 於是我們又得搬家, 我和弟弟又得換一個學校. 對於我和弟弟的學業, 則不知父親是根本不關心, 還是很有信心. 須要學英文就學吧. 他認為在這種情況之下留級一兩年也不是什麼奇恥大辱. 來到美國的第一年我們就在英語補習班裡混了一學年. 翌年我插入正式初中三年級….等於留級一年. 英文不論是說 ,聽, 寫, 都還是相當吃力. 中國的高初中學課程都是必修課, 沒有選擇. 而美國的高初中有一半以上的課是自由選擇的. 但是所有的學員都必選修一門外國語. 英文能力有限的移民學員也不例外. 那時我的英文課總是將將通過, 不是C就是C-…. 倒還沒有不及格. 我覺得不能再擔負一門陌生的語文了.父親不但不去學校替我說情, 居然還建議我選讀拉丁文, 說對學習語言有幫助! 意想不到, 我在拉丁文班裡倒和美國學生是同等學力. 因此分數反而比一般美國同學的高, 總是B+或A! 父親沒有錯, 學了拉丁文對我以後學德文, 法文, 甚至生物,都很有幫助.
        耶魯大學那時有一批中國留學生, 他們一到週末就擁到我們家來吃喝玩樂. N是其中的一個. 父親除了教書, 做研究, 也愛打橋牌,下圍棋, 打乒乓, “擺龍門陣”, 也很歡迎他們來玩. 每逢節日我們家總是很熱鬧. 母親好客, 燒得一手好家鄉菜, 平易近人, 異國相逢, 對待這些青年人特別情親. 我們家當然就成了他們異國之家, 把我和弟弟當作他們的弟弟妹妹, 帶著一起玩.
        由于經常搬家, 換學校, 我沒有什麼常相好的同年朋友. 和一些美國同學又有文化和思想上的隔閡. 比如說, 到了週末, 美國同學們都出去玩, 約會; 而我得在家花加倍的時間讀英文課本. 美國十五六歲的男女孩子都開始交異性的朋友; 而我沒有. 因此性格變得有點孤寡, 不大說話, 悶頭看書, 彈鋼琴. 只有週末有另一個年齡差不多的女孩到我家來等侯家教鋼琴老師來一起上課. 我們倆彈一陣, 聊一 陣. 有一次 N 跑進來說我們像兩隻小鳥一高一低的唱合. 後來我們彈的比較進步了, 幾位大哥們就會靜坐在客廳裡或涼臺上聽我們練琴. 那時中國女留學生很少, 所以我們兩個十五六歲的姑娘, 對這些候選博士的光棍兒們大概挺有吸引力. 但是畢竟年紀差距比較大, 又是兩個教授的千金, 沒有人敢公然追求. 除了N.
        這幾位大我十幾歲的大哥們裡頭, 我和N算最有話講. 他有很多中文文藝書籍常常借給我看, 小說, 散文, 思想論文, 等等. 現代文學家如矛盾, 魯迅, 老舍, 冰心, 曹禺, 都是那時看的. 還有古典小說, 武俠小說. 看不懂時, 或有所心得時就和他討論, 聊天兒. 但我從來沒有單獨和他出游過. 不久父親接受華盛頓大學的聘請, 我們一家就從東海岸搬到西海岸的西雅圖.
        我讀高三那年春天, N忽然來到西雅圖. 叫名兒是來看 “你們” 的. 起初, 大概除了我, 誰都明白他是來看誰的. 每天下了課我抱著書往家走, 就遠遠看見N瘦長的身個兒倚在路橋的石欄上等待.
        橋下是一個曲折的城市綠代谷. 谷底有流溪一彎, 兩邊草坪, 茂林花木. 多雨的西 雅圖的春天特別美麗, 碧綠的長青樹林襯托著 “奼紫妍紅” 的杜鵑花. 在這裡我嘗到了”十七歲的初戀” 的甜與酸. 一個星期以後N就走了. 後來收到他兩封情書, 就再也沒有消息了. 雖然有一陣傷情, 但我上了大學以後並不缺乏男伴兒. 這翻感情上的挫折也就漸漸平緩下去了.
        上大學以後, 不是我去叫爸爸回家吃飯了, 而是他在辦公室等我下課一起駕車回家. 有一天他有會議, 我在辦公室寫作業等他回來. 鉛筆斷了就打開抽屜找筆. 在抽屜後角發現一束信, 筆跡很熟. 再一看是幾封N給我的信, 每一封都打開過! 看了這些信我心裡 一陣亂,一陣怒,一陣怕. 難道說天下我最愛的, 最尊敬的, 最信任的父親會沒收, 會偷看我的信嗎? 他為什么這樣作? 他可能有這樣卑偽的行為嗎?
        門外父親的腳步聲近了, 鑰匙響了. 我慌忙把信放回抽屜, 一時不知何所措. 回家一路無話, 心裡琢磨著怎麼發作. 第二天我又去辦公室等父親. 這次我要結結實實的質問他. 可是那一束信卻不見了. 我也沒有勇氣質問他. 從那以後, 我和父親之間就產生了無言的代溝.
        我二十歲生日晚上, 請了幾個同學來家吃飯, 包括後來成為我的丈夫的J. 忽然弟弟叫我接長途電話. 是N.
        他問我為什么不回信? 他現在要來接我走. 如果我不跟他走, 他 “可能不久會結婚”. 我聽了, 這明明是告訴我他已另有對象了, 還要逼我作出決策的意味.
        “那麼, 我希望以後不再看見你. 因為我會要你的….”
        這是五十年前N對我說的最後一句話. J走進來問有什麼事. 我說沒有.
        父親從來沒有坦白過N的事情. 既然我已經有了新的對象, 也不再提起N. 但這件事卻許多年來耿耿于懷. 直到我大學畢業多年後, 自己作了三個青少年的母親, 才體會到作父母的難處, 有時候不得不採取專制的手段. 如果我早跟N走了, 可能沒有如今學業上的成果.


        事隔多年, 父親在華盛頓大學任教二十年, 1969退休以後, 又到夏威夷大學教書三年. 再次退休以後就定居在山明水秀的檀香山. 1982年, 父親心肌梗塞, 母親同時大腸癌發作, 兩人接連做了大手術. 我和弟弟往返多次照看, 但為了工作不能久留. 他們療養康復期間幸有我的兒子麥思禮照顧. 但是他也終於必須離去讀研究院. 因此一向堅決獨立的一對老人, 覺得離開成年兒女太遠, 還是不行. 於是1985年, 高齡的父母放棄了四季如春的夏威夷,搬到加州奧克蘭市, 住在美麗湖邊(Lake Merritt)高樓公寓裡. 這次遷居是他們來依附我這個長女的; 也是他們一生游居四方最後的一次搬家.
        1987年, 八月二十二日凌晨, 電話鈴嚮了. 我真怕拿起聽筒. 果然是弟弟培德從紅木城(Redwood City) 凱薩醫院, 打電話報告父親剛剛辭世. 下面是我最難以下筆的一段; 也是這四年來總寫不完這篇紀念文的緣故.
        四十四天以前, 七月六日, 父親突然中風. 從那日起, 母親﹐弟弟﹐和我就輪流在病房裡陪他, 照顧他. 加護病房裡面, 往往住著四到六個重病的病人﹐高架病床﹐測驗儀器﹐醫藥櫃櫥﹐剩餘的空間的確狹窄. 一兩個護士晝夜輪流視察﹐只許家屬定時探病. 但母親堅持晝夜在旁. 醫院工作人員抗議了幾次﹐說我們違反醫院規定﹐干擾別的病人的權益等等. 弟弟培德從東岸新澤西州趕過來. 我姐弟輪流陪伴父母親﹐堅持押著母親去吃飯﹐強迫她休息. 最後買了一條折疊泡綿褥墊﹐索性鋪在父親高架病床底下, 以便短睡. 母親一向會做人. 不但儘量不麻煩護士們﹐碰上人手不夠還不時的幫他們照看別的病人. 護理們終于無可奈何這位老太太﹐讓她留下. 還替她搬來一張後背可以平放下來的大椅子, 供她休息. 有時還表示同情別的病人少有﹐或根本沒有﹐家屬來看望他們﹐關心他們. 後來索性玩笑的說﹐如果所有的病人都有我們這樣的家屬﹐他們一半的人要失業了.
        八月二十一日夜晚﹐我在加護病房看父親. 他那時已經被搶救過, 喉嚨裡插了半寸把粗的人工呼吸氧氣管﹐頭頸被撐得往後仰﹐不能說話. 鼻孔裡穿吊著營養管﹐兩臂插牽著點滴管﹐輸血管﹐腿上是預備隨時驗血的抽血管. 胸部還有肺部排水管. 氧氣機在旁一起一落滋滋作響. 我一陣心酸. 想﹐耶穌在十字架上受刑也不過如此吧.
        我蹲下握著父親一隻無力的手﹐皮膚平滑﹐覺不出骨骼. 我附在他耳邊告訴他明天下午再來看他. 明天早上是期中考試﹐我今晚必須回去預備考題付印等等. 他一輩子教書﹐這種任務他是會了解的, 會原諒我的. 父親不能點頭﹐只見眼角一串斷線的淚珠﹐流過耳旁落到枕上濕了一小圈. 這是我最後一次看見微有一息生命的父親﹐和他說話. 他好像聽見了.
        父親去世的消息傳出去以後﹐我們家陸續收到國內外的慰問信件﹐電話﹐電報﹐不下百餘份. 喪事辦完後﹐我留在湖邊公寓陪母親住了一年多. 翌年, 1988正月份, 接到父母親的摯友張充和女士一封信和一副小小的山水畫. 張充和是我們熟識的朋友中的才女﹐精通書法﹐詩詞﹐崑曲﹐繪畫. 因為我們是小孩時在成都認識她的﹐稱她 “張娘娘” (用川語發音“娘” 讀陰平聲). 張娘娘天天練字和人家跑步鍛煉一樣; 每天寫二百個字﹐從不間斷. 無論旅行到那裡, 總是攜帶一小塊明代的墨, 和小小的水滴﹐以便練字. 她還收集古墨名紙. 她所藏當代名人字畫, 如張大千的, 都是用她自己的字畫交換來的. 這位多材多藝的女才子自從抗戰期間和父母認識了以後﹐非常投緣. 和她的夫婿傅漢思﹐Hans Frankel﹐德裔漢學家 (耶魯大學榮休教授)是我們家經常來往的朋友.

        “我處只有你爸爸八封信. 有的極短….第一封是一九四六年由成都寄重慶. 事關你小姐. 抄奉. ‘充和小姐﹕冊頁放在抽屜中為小女一剪為二. 只畫了半頁. 聊作試筆. 實在萬分抱歉. 茲將附上只可作書簽用. 改日再畫一幅﹐或者稍有進步….’ 想來你見了冊頁便剪了做手工. 此信是毛筆寫的….字字寫的非常秀雅.”

        我看了這幾行字半日黯然﹐淚從心底流. 張娘娘顯然是很欣賞父親的丹青. 她寄給父親的冊頁必是有來歷的, 不然不必寄了, 成都買得著好紙. 但是我對這件事一點影子都沒有. 因為父親從來沒有跟我提過這件事﹐從來沒有質問過我有沒有拿他的紙﹐從來沒有因此罵過我一聲, 說過我一句.
        附在張娘娘的信裡是一幅淡雅的山水, 畫在絹上. 中峰有一座遠渚﹐隔著一汪江水﹐近處岸旁幾點清石﹐一彎綠柳﹐數點粉桃. 款云﹕“庚戌秋(1970)方桂在半舫 寫江南小景. 充和記. 林德留念. 充贈.”(半舫是充和書齋名) 還有一張父親正在作畫的照片. 這大概是二十四年以後在美國﹐父親補給她的一張畫吧. 張娘娘善用心機, 把這幅畫給了我. 現在掛在父母的遺象上頭.

        完稿于奧克蘭市, 橡樹居


        1987年六月底﹐張充和從東部新港 (New Haven) 來看望我父母. 臨行一晚在我家吃完飯﹐一起唱崑曲. 父親還吹笛給她伴奏了一段. “有朋自遠方來”﹐談天說地高興了半夜. 那一次來, 張充和送我翰墨一幅﹕灑銀扇面﹐上面以她秀雅的書法寫著她自己的詩詞九首. 其中最感動我的是兩首思鄉的浣溪沙﹐似乎和父親的畫的那張江南小景相附和﹕

                “難遣繁憂入酒卮, 關河約略似當時. 懶逢佳節換新衣.
                墨淡筆荒餘悵望, 意新詞澀乍凝思. 閒窗窈窕暮雲垂.”

* 此文曾由李光謨, 林文月, 馬逢華, 徐燕生, 諸位過目, 多有建議增減刪改. 特此鳴謝.
1. 七月廿九日 2002 到昆明時 我根本不知道龍頭村往那個方向去找. 感謝云南師範大學 文學院陳慧老師, 她很熱心的打聽清楚方向帶我前去.
2. 原信見李光謨所輯 “李濟與友人通信選輯”, 中國文化 15-16 期﹐1997.
3. 關於我的祖母, 今年四月11日﹐2002, 我在 新港﹐充和家 抄錄爸爸給她的一封信:

        “充和﹕我母親是屬兔兒的, 大約是1867-8年 (正月), 你可算一算, 查一查.
        她是1948年去世的. 她是給西太后代畫筆. 她說起一位女士繆素雲女士
        她姓何是山西靈石人. 名字是兆英﹐所以又號靈石女史. 又號小藤花館主人. 我只有她一幅中堂現在北平. 還是1933年從琉璃廠買回來的. 家藏的都不見了. 山西昔陽縣志(我們的老家)似乎有她的傳.
        何姓是靈石大家. 蘇州的何澄(八爺) 是她的本家叔叔. 也是個小收藏家與王季千有親. 匆此並問閤第均好.
        方桂寄 (未署日月, 信封郵戳是四月11日, 1975年, 台北南港, 中央研究院).

4. 湯顯祖引李後主詞 “相見歡”二句; 後,湯句. 牡丹亭驚夢折.