“Cindy, we need to wear the white funeral dress and cry in front your Grandpa’s coffin.” Cindy’s mom says.
“Mom, how can I cry? I hardly know him. I can’t just shed tear on command.” Cindy says.
“Your Grandpa’s will says that everybody has to cry. Anybody who doesn’t cry is not going to get any inheritance. You know he’s a poor farmer all his life, but suddenly the real estate around here is booming. His little piece of land could worth so much. If we get what we should get, it will cover your college tuition at that pricey snobby college you are going to attend at Boston. So try to cry, OK? Make an effort.”
Cindy and her parents are attending her grandpa’s funeral (her father’s father) at a village on the outskirts of Kaohsiung City. The land around Kaohsiung is becoming unbelievably expensive due to the urgent need for expansion by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. The whole village is basically purchased overnight. Cindy’s father grew up here before getting a scholarship to attend college in Singapore and graduate school in California. Cindy is close to her grandparents from her mother’s side, but not the grandparents on her father’s side. She was born and raised in New Jersey and she only visited her Grandpa’s village in Taiwan once before.
“Wait, Cindy. Before you change into the funeral gown, you need to sew this. Each of us has to sew a crane on this piece of silk. I already drew a little crane pattern for you. Your Grandpa is really whimsical, isn’t he? He demands this in his will.” Cindy’s mom says.
“I don’t do embroidery. If I ever do, I want to sew a Hello Kitty.”
“Oh, you have to do a crane since it is a symbol of longevity.”
“Grandpa’s already dead. Why does he still care about longevity?”
“It’s called tradition and stop your endless complaints and questions.”
“I’ve never see anybody like Grandpa. He’s making all these demands out of his coffin. I can’t believe he wants to control others even after he’s dead.”
“Lower your voice, Cindy. Your Grandpa’s spirit hasn’t left yet. It would not depart for heaven until the firecracker ceremony after the funeral. He could still hear you.” Cindy’s mom warned, “Your Grandpa is the gentlest and most caring creature. Very responsible, although very reserved and very stubborn. If we had money, you could have come back here for your summer break every year, but we can’t afford the trip.”
“Mom, I’ll do the embroidery just to humor him, but I don’t think I can cry.” Cindy says.
“You said you want to be a performer, right? You probably want to practice different emotions.”
“Mom, I want to be a comedian, who makes people laugh. Nobody cries in a comedy club.” Cindy says.
As Cindy is finishing up her first attempt at embroidery with all the mistakes a novice usually makes, a group of five women, all strangers, come in. They immediately come close to admire what Cindy is doing, but Cindy is not comfortable with them crowding her and addressing her in ultra familiar ways. Before Cindy can speak one word, she’s already being called as their beloved little sister.
At first Cindy thinks they are women from the village, but soon the women tell her that they are the hired criers that her whimsical Grandpa insisted on having for his funeral.
“How can you cry for a stranger? I mean I don’t know my Grandpa and my tears just don’t come up.” Cindy says.
“That’s so easy, little sister.” One of the women says, “you just recall those days when you were dumped by a boyfriend, bullied by a boss, injured by a relative, misunderstood by …”
“You can shout and describe your story during your crying.” Another woman says. “So just describe a story that’s really sad to you and your tears will come up.”
When the funeral ends, everybody says Cindy cries the hardest. She has described those sad episodes of her story–not being able to find people who sympathize with her aspiration. The whole environment is quite noisy with all the chanting of the Buddhist monks, and the crying of the hired criers. She could just shout and speak loudly without feeling embarrassed. And soon her tears come, almost like rushing water out of a flood gate. When she finishes, she feels such an indescribable sense of release.
“Cindy, that’s wonderful. I know you can do it.” Her mom says. “I need to talk with you about …”
“Mom, I have no time to talk. I have to go with those five women to another funeral in Taipei. I’ll be the crier there. Oh, such catharsis, such energy. Bye now.”
Other tales of Cindy:
The Young Comedian–Cindy wants to become a comedian, but her mom doesn’t agree.