I am a Chinese girl child. It is my second birthday.
My mother comes to see me and talks to nurse.
“Great honor is to be bestowed,” nurse tells me,
“Today we will bind your feet to make you beautiful”
“I do not want my feet to be bound” I say. “I don’t want to be beautiful!”
I have seen my mother’s deformed feet; she can barely walk.
She sways and sometimes has to have someone to hold onto.
“SHHHH!” nurse hisses “nice little girls do not complain, do not say ‘I-do-want or I-do-not-want”
A basin of animal blood and herbs is brought to nurse.
Then servants bring many bandages. I begin to cry.
“SHHH!” admonishes nurse. “Nice girls do not cry!”
I do not want to be a nice girl. I have seen older’s sister’s
deformed feet. She is in pain all the time.
I cry harder as servants are brought in to hold me down.
My feet are soaked in the basin until nurse decides
they are soft enough. My toes
are pressed down, Under my foot.
The bandages hold my toes in place.
I cry harder. Soon I am screaming.
Terrible scene! More servants come running to
Nurse’s aid. No one comes to crying child’s aid.
Suddenly all grows still. I open my eyes to look–
And there stands my father, a look of wrath on his face.
“STOP THIS NONSENSE!” he commands me.
I am fearful of my father. I stop. The wrapping of my feet
continues. My tiny toes are broken. I shuddered and shook
with the pain and my fear. It is the worst day of my life.
I cringe to remember the ordeal.
Many years later, when I become a mother, I am adamant.
My daughters’ feet would not be bound no matter how ugly
it made them. They managed to find husbands anyway.
But by then binding feet was not quite as popular as it was
when I was a little girl.
Christian ministers came to China and told people binding feet
is wrong. God does not make mistakes, they say. Our feet
should be the way God made them. For me it is too late.
I wonder, sometimes, where was God when I was two years old?
Sandra Lee Smith/PAST LIVES/ September 2012