December 18, 2005

Repost: The Beautiful Woman -- by Bruce Lin

When we first met, she spread out a big piece of paper on the desk with the song lyrics of "Smoke Gets in Your Eye" she transcribed earlier and wanted me to read those lines for her. Every word she wrote down was as big as a giant beetle: they were big and clearly written. Then, she took out an antique recorder and awkwardly pressed the "record" button, and I started to read those lyrics for her. In the MP3 era, it's neat to see people using this old gadget.

She became a regular in my class. She raised questions, took notes, and read English out loud in class. Her pronunciation was not correct yet every word was loud. From time to time, she would operate her little machine to record class sessions. Those tick-tick sounds of the machine showed so much of her urge to learn.

Sometimes she complained that the words in the class handouts were too small. That's easy; I just augmented the font size of the words and printed the handouts for her again. With font size 36, every word looked bigger even than her "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" handwriting; they were now big enough to be "exploding in your face." She was happy.

She told me she wanted to talk to her great-grandson when he came back from the US. The boy loved her, but there seemed to be a little communication problem. “This year will be different!” She said.

Somehow people stop learning when they pass certain age, as if learning is responsibility of the young. Many do nothing but watch TV all day long after they retire; they are often labeled as “couch potatoes” – I think “couch zombies” is more like it. She was different; that fire was still burning in her eyes, and would continue to blaze for quite some time. Wasn't she a beautiful woman? She IS THE beautiful woman.


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