Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Grandmother's 1942

Bo Jin
Cause and Effect essay

Final essay

My Grandmother’s 1942

         Famine was like a group of wolves. When hunger came, it would devour the last drops of tears from human beings. Between the summer of 1942 and the spring of 1943, Henan province suffered the severest drought in history. After the drought, they suffered again with a plague of locusts. Famine spread across the one hundred counties in the province. There were ten million people in Henan province during that time, and it was estimated that three million people died from starvation and diseases. My grandmother’s family was one of the seven million refugees who had to walk to Shaanxi seeking the last hope of her life. A countless number refugees died along the way. They ate all the food that could be eaten even including dead people in order to stay alive. My grandmother’s family eventually arrived in Xi’an, Shaanxi, but only my grandmother and my great grandfather were alive. During that year, my grandmother was only five years old, and she had the worst experience in her life, the death of her mother, brothers, and sisters. That period of almost unforgettable history not only influenced the entire life of my grandmother, but also affected her next generations. 

This period of bitter history not only influenced my grandmother’s childhood, but also affected her marriage. My great grandfather got remarried after his wife died when my grandma was only five years old. It had left her with an empty heart for her entire childhood. After my grandmother and my great grandfather arrived in Xi’an, they received financial help from the government, but the financial help could only maintain their daily necessities. My grandmother had to beg on the streets every day. A broken bowl for begging became her favorite toy. One day, my great grandfather came back in the evening, and not only brought back food, but also brought back a woman who later became my grandmother’s stepmother. Within a year, my grandmother’s stepmother gave birth to a boy. This “gift” made my grandmother’s life more miserable than it already was. In the patriarchal age, my grandmother’s status at home was like her “toy” – the broken bowl she used for begging. When my grandmother was sixteen years old, her family faced more financial difficulties, so they forced her to marry someone she did not know or have any feelings for, and she did not have a ring or wedding. He was ten years older than her. My grandfather was also a refugee who came to Xi’an to survive, but unfortunately, he was the only one in his family that survived the famine. He was a very poor railroad worker. He only gave my great grandfather a carton of cigarettes and a bottle of wine to take away my grandmother. My grandmother later gave birth to three daughters and two sons, and my father was the youngest among his sibling. The children brought sunshine to her life again, just like the spring had come and left the coldness behind.

This period of unforgettable history not only influenced my grandmother but also affected the choice of my father’s major in university and the choice of his career path. My father used to say, “I am very lucky because I did not experience the famine, and I have had the best education among all the siblings.” By the time my father was born, his family’s financial condition had improved gradually; thus, his family lived frugally for his tuition. Of course, my father was very smart and was later accepted by Northwest University. Even though the family was very happy about his acceptance, they did not expect that my father would choose to study agriculture. Four years later, my father’s family was surprised again that he gave up at job of the Agricultural Bureau, and that he went to the countryside to teach the farmers how to grow crops. when the family planned how to celebrate my father’s college graduation, he suddenly disappeared. My father only left a letter on the dining table, saying his dream was to help farmers improve production of crops and reduce the likelihood of drought. My grandmother finally realized he wanted to help the farmers was because she used to tell him the stories she had experienced in her childhood, and he was afraid there would be another famine in the future.

 This period of heavy history not only influenced my grandmother and my father, but also affected my personality and values. My grandmother always taught me that I would encounter all kinds of difficulties in life, and that I need to be brave to face them. When I was a little boy, my grandmother used to share the stories of her childhood with me. Her stories would always make me think that my grandmother was very brave and strong; she became a hero in my heart. My grandmother always gave me support, and it made me feel confident and fearless. No matter what difficulties I have met, I know I could overcome them. In addition, my grandmother’s story made me realize that family was more important than anything else. My grandmother once told me the most painful thing in her entire life was that she witnessed the death of her mother and her siblings, but she could not do anything about it. After my grandmother shared the story with me, I always wanted to spend a lot of time with my family, and I hoped my parents could be happy every day.

My grandmother’s 1942 was like an epitaph that buried my grandmother’s youth, recorded my father’s dream, and guided my way. Today, this period of real history has been produced in a movie called “Back to 1942”. After I saw the movie with my grandmother, I asked her, “Did you cry every day just like the actress in the movie?” She answered softly, “At that time, I was so hungry that I did not even have the strength to cry.”  And then, I asked her again: “Did you have a different feeling of life after you had experienced your 1942?” I stared at her. She tried to fake a smile, and then told me: “live every day as if it is your last.” I later realized the meaning of the saying. If I live each day as if it is my last, I will treasure everything.


  1. Your essay reminds me about that hiatory. My grandmother ever told me about this disaster. Fortunately, at that time, the disaster Situations in our Province was better than other provinces. Your father is really a kind person.

  2. Your essay is very emotional. Even though I don't know that disaster before, I feel very sad when I read your essay. Your father did a good job, he helped the farmers.


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