In 5th grade, my brother and I moved to the city to live with our grandmother, so we could attend a better school (I was still living in China). This was where I met M, who was also in my class among 60 some other kids. I do understand that smaller class size would allow the teachers to give more attention students - but that’s unheard of in the city we lived. Class sizes were generally 50-70. Can you imagine 60+ some kids in one class, with one teacher???
M lived about 5 sky rises away from my grandmother’s and she was everything I wanted to be. Her parents were artists, quite sophisticated people who lived sophisticated and luxurious lives. Both her and her brother were also rather artistic and had entered in drawing competitions etc. Their house was at the top floor, knocking down the wall in-between and joining 2 flats into one extremely large one.
Coming from the countryside having lived peasant-style lives, M’s house was a castle to me. There were leather sofa and chairs, big screen TV (in color!), nice decorations, gorgeous rugs!, big refrigerator with loads of goodies, and very comfortable cushion-y mattresses. I’ve never slept on a mattress before - my bed was a giant piece of hard wood plank topped with bamboo liner in the summer and an old thick blanket in the winter. She even had her own desk, with nice posters hanging all around her room.
Despite our vast different material backgrounds, M and I got along rather nicely. My personality and M’s were very similar. We both liked to wear shorts more than skirts and didn’t take to the girly frilly things that some of our peers did. Since her house was on the way to school, I usually stopped by and wait for her, and we’d walk to school together. She would show me all the places along the way - this store’s ice cream was really good, or that bookstore had some great books but they’ll scold you if you go in to read and not buy, etc. Some days we would take the long route, skipping along the rice paddies to admire the birds and bugs. Other days there were other girls joining us to walk to school. M and I were very good friends, she knew my secrets and which boys I liked. I knew who she dreamed about and would go give them lots of “hints.” We had loads of fun together, doing homework at her house, watching TV and or bouncing on the bed.
She never once looked down on me because of my poor background.
After I moved to the US 1.5 years later, we kept in touch via letters. (This was pre-internet days). It was lovely and I missed her and my other friends dearly. We kept in touch for a very very very long time, until we both graduated college. We visited each other both times I went back to China (in a total of 19 years..) We just seemed to pick up where we left off and continue right on. She’s forever a giving soul and my heart always has a place for her. She’s now married as well, with a one-year old son. We don’t talk very much - but I know she’s doing fine and are busy with her adult life and parenthood. I haven’t seen her in nearly 9 years. I miss her and think of her from time to time.
She’s the sister I never had but wish I did. I am so fortunate to have her in my life, albeit how infrequent we get to talk with or see each other.