Leaving TJ (Tianjin) to living with Auntie Spalding, was my fortune but again, there were down sides to it, particularly was her criticism or objection over my involvement at school and my love of reading and writing. When I got involved with school in any form, she would say,
“Don’t get involved. Your mother was involved with her Institute and look what happened to her.”
When I told her that the class voted me as the class monitor as an honor, and being awarded the Model Student 三好学生 (思想品德好、学习好、身体好 -> good moral character, good learning and good health) she would say,
“You ought to correct your love for 出风头 limelight. It’s bad, very bad .. ”
One day our neighbor, my playmate Fan Yi (we were in the same grade but never shared same class) brought home his homework that made Aunt Spalding a household name: he wrote about her in his composition, titled My Neighbor Aunt Spalding, or something in that neighborhood. His literature teacher liked it so much that she shared it with the class.
Spalding is not her real name. Because she is short, about 4’9″ and does not walk, instead bounce hence the nickname. The teacher found the story adoring and read out loud. Soon the entire grade knew about it. And soon it reached the person herself. That night, Aunt Spalding’s joyous voice boomed thought-out the building, telling every neighbor of her fifteen minutes of fame. I was happy for my mate. I was happy that Aunt Spalding was a recognizable and beloved figure. But I was confused and simmering with resentment: So you thoroughly enjoyed the limelight. It was ok for you but not for me?
That night, Aunt Spalding talked or bragged about her ‘fame’ in our school. It might be out of amusement but I felt largely was due to the limelight that she so advocated against. As a 13 or 14 years old kid, it’s very hard to comprehend. If limelight was so bad then why did she enjoyed it so much and talked about it with a gusto?