Interview with Grandma Mary

Recorded October 7, 2017 Archived October 7, 2017 23:09 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: APP348068


Asked my dear grandma questions about her childhood, her family, how she and my grandpa met, and who's made an impact on her life.

Transcript (Translated into English, some parts paraphrased):

Joanne: Hi, my name is Joanne Chua. I am 28 years old. Today is October 7, 2017, and I'm speaking with Mary, who is my grandma. We are recording this interview in Manila, Philippines.

Joanne: Ok, I'm going to start asking you questions. Can you tell me about any memories you have from your childhood? What kind of child were you growing up?

Mary: Coming from the rural countryside we had a hard time growing up. My family was poor. My siblings and I had to work on the mountain.

J: How many siblings did you have?

M: Ten siblings.

J: Ten siblings?!

M: Yes, ten. Six sons, four daughters.

J: And where were you in terms of sibling order?

M: I was the third in terms of the girls, in terms of all the siblings, I was the seventh. We had a hard time growing up when I was young. My parents were farmers. We farmed tea leaves. We didn't have much. We didn't have shoes to wear. When we needed diapers as babies, we used old clothes.

J: Then you washed the clothes again?

M: Yes, and then we used them again as diapers.

J: You remember when you were that young? When you had to wear diapers?

M: Yes! How could I not remember? From my eldest brother, we all used the old clothes as diapers in the same way.

J: And what did you kids do on the mountain?

M: I would be with my siblings. If my parents went out to work, my older siblings would prepare food for us younger siblings to eat. We didn't have shoes to wear. It sounds like a story. Your aunt used to say to me, "Tell me more stories about your childhood mom. I'll tell these stories to my children one day."

J: What kind of child were you? Were you naughty or obedient?

M: Not very naughty. I was brought up by my siblings. My parents didn't have much time to take care of us. They worked until very late every night. They would come home for lunch and then go back out to work.

J: Can you tell me about your happiest memory?

M: I don't have many happy memories growing up.

J: Why?

M: Why would I have happy memories? We were poor growing up.

J: You didn't play as a child?

M: We didn't play much... We did sometimes go to a lake. There were a lot of shrimps and small crabs. I would go with my siblings to go catch them. I was very happy when we got to do that.

J: And then? Would you eat them?

M: Yes! We would catch them and eat them. I would also go to the field and play with worms. I would go to a ditch next to the rice fields and look for worms in the mud. That was fun for us.

J: Can you tell me about your parents?

M: My parents are from Guangdong originally.

J: What about your grandparents?

M: They live a bit past Taichung in Taiwan.

J: Are they Taiwanese?

M: Yes. My grandparents are Taiwanese. Our ancestors a few generations back are the ones who came from China originally.

J: I see. And how did you meet grandpa?

M: Grandpa? You're going to ask about this? Haha.

J: Yes! Haha.

M: Someone introduced me to him. Your grandpa was a foreigner. At that time my father was pretty open-minded. I wasn't willing to marry a foreigner. But my father allowed it. He said, your grandpa was a doctor in the army. He said that as farmers we weren't educated. I haven't been through much schooling. So my father told me if I married your grandpa, I would have a good life. I thought, he's so much older than me, I don't want to marry him! I went out to the movies with him twice and decided I didn't want to be with him. I thought, your grandpa is 13 or 14 years older than me, he's too old! Then my dad got angry, and slapped me twice. He said, why did you go watch movies with him? Then I just thought, okay, nevermind, maybe this is my lot in life. Fine, I'll just marry him. And so I married him.

J: Wait, you said your father got mad? Why? Because you went to the movies with grandpa?

M: Yes, at that time in Taiwan it was looked down upon for girls to go out with guys casually.

J: And did you know? Did you know you weren't allowed? Haha.

M: I thought it was ok, I thought it was fine, not a big problem.
[At this point my aunt interrupts (will denote her as A)]

A: Did you know dad had another wife at that time?

M: No.

A: When did he tell you?

M: One time your grandpa said his mother was in China, so he went to Hong Kong to see her. Your grandpa had another wife in China – I didn’t know. He went to Hong Kong in secret to see her.

J: So when did you know?

M: Afterwards your mom took your grandpa to Hong Kong, and that’s when I knew.

J: Ok. Do you remember when you first got pregnant, how did you feel?

M: When I first got pregnant I wanted to vomit.

A: How you felt! Your feelings!

M: Oh, my feelings! Haha. At that young age I didn’t feel much.

J: Were you happy? Or scared?

M: I was scared. Not very happy, I was just very scared! Haha.

J: And when you first saw my mom, how did you feel?

M: When I saw her I was very happy! Once she was born I was very happy.

A: So at that time you weren’t able to tell if your baby was a boy or girl right? Only when you gave birth did you find out?

M: Yes.

J: Do you remember when my mom was little, what was the naughtiest thing she did?

M: Let me think… Your mom was quite obedient actually. The year after I gave birth to your mom I gave birth straight away to your second aunt.

J: So mom was obedient. Then who was the naughtiest?

M: Who was the naughtiest… all my children are pretty obedient.

J: I see. What is your best memory with your children?

A: When you spanked them! Haha.

M: Haha. I did spank them. I did spank each child. If they didn’t listen, I spanked them. Today we teach our children lovingly, but we didn’t do that before.

J: Do you have any good stories about mom as a child?

M: Your mom was very smart. Your grandpa loved her a lot. He let her learn ballet. Your mom was quite smart.

J: She was smart, do you mean in school?

M: She was alright in school, but she was very good at ballet. I would always bring her to ballet.

J: Didn’t she also sing?

M: Not so much, she did ballet more. She is a very happy person, very pure-minded. When she was just in grade school, she went to work. She went to work cutting flower designs on rugs. She would sing while she cut them. She was very happy. She cut herself on her thigh once.

J: Do you mean cut flowers in a garden?

M: No, cutting flower designs on a rug. You know, like the rug in grandma’s house. Your mom cut flowers in a factory.

J: Oh, I see.

M: She was very pure and good.

J: Then she cut herself?!

M: Yes, she did.

J: Poor mom!

M: Yes, if you look at her thigh, you’ll see a scar. When she cut herself, the factory owner took her to go get it stitched, but she didn’t want to. So when she came home, your grandpa stitched it up for her.

J: Was it deep?

M: Yes! When I watched your grandpa stitch her up, I immediately fainted.

J: Really? Because it was bloody?

M: Of course, it was a deep cut. If you don’t believe me you can go look at your mom’s thigh, there’s a large scar.

J: Ohh, really. Can you tell me what your favorite memory is that has me in it?

M: Yes of course!

J: Like what?

M: How should I say it…

J: Just choose one of your most memorable memories.

M: Haha. Should I tell a good one or a bad one?

J: You can tell one of each! Haha.

M: You were very cute. You were also quite obedient. But one time I went to the market and left you sleeping in the house. At that time your mom came to the Philippines often. Every month she would come to the Philippines. So I took care of you. When you fell asleep I went out to the market to buy food. When I came back from the market, I thought, where is my baby?! I couldn’t find you. I got so scared. Then, do you know where you were?

J: In the bathroom?

M: No! You had flipped over 180 degrees and were sleeping on the other side of the bed! Maybe when I went to the market you cried, and flipped over. I couldn’t find you and was so scared. That’s when I noticed you were sleeping towards the edge of the bed.

J: Ohhh.

M: Haha. That was the time I was the most scared. You were so smart.

J: I was so smart at one month old?

M: No, you were probably four or five months old at that time.

J: Ok, one last question.

M: More questions?!

J: One last! Can you tell me who’s helped you most in your life or most inspired you?

M: Your mom.

J: My mom? Why?

M: Your mom has helped me a lot.

J: How?

M: First, she’s very respectful. Whatever I need, if I ask her for help, she will help me.

J: Ok.

M: That’s it, we’re done?

J: Yes. I just wanted to interview you because I feel like I rarely am able to speak to you like this, and I think learning about things this way is great, it’s fun. And you’re very important to me.

M: You’re very respectful to grandma. You listen to whatever I say. You and your sister are both intelligent and obedient, and pretty. I am very touched that my grandchildren are all so good.

J: Because you are good!

M: God has blessed us with a good family. Everyone leads a peaceful life. See, your mom is very obedient. Like this time, I didn’t want to come, but you guys kept asking me to come visit. Right? You are so good to me. Thank you.

J: Thank you!

M: You are the most obedient and respectful. When you are successful, if grandma is no longer here, you need to be good to your mother. Your mother is mighty. See how your mother does everything for you. We must be obedient to her. Just as your mother is obedient to me. I will be very touched and grateful. I’m already so old. Maybe when I go back I will no longer be here with you.

J: That’s not true!

M: Really. I’m very grateful. In the future, just be good to your mother and give back to me in that way. Thank you.


  • Mary Yuan
  • Joanne Chua

Interview By