Moon landings and Chinese grandmas

By Pauline D.Loh ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-01-17 07:17:03

My 90-year-old mother-in-law is convinced the three-month drought in Beijing this winter is because of the recent moon landing. Her vigorous defense of this theory is an odd mixture of superstition and science, and it's pretty convincing.

"Why on earth would you want to land on the moon? I am pretty sure it disturbed the heavens so the cloud patterns became unusual. That's why we've had no rain or snow!

"It's just not natural.

"If God had meant man to be on the moon, it would have happened a long time ago. You wouldn't have to make such complicated machines at such cost and at such risk."

I tried to tell her it wasn't the first time it has happened. American astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon when he took that famous huge step for mankind on July 21, 1969.

Mom pooh-poohed that with the perfect rebuttal.

"The Americans didn't know better. We Chinese should respect the presence of Chang'e, our lady on the moon. She has been there thousands of years."

That immediately brought back memories of another grandmother who also suffered similar trauma.

It was indeed 1969 and we had watched the moon landing on the news on our black-and-white television. My mother's mother made no comment that day, but we realized how much it affected her when the Mid-Autumn Festival arrived a couple of months later.

In the past, this festival was an important celebration in our Straits Chinese household in Singapore. A huge table would be loaded with pomelos, mooncakes, baby yams and water caltrops and set up in the garden so we could pay homage to the moon.

The children would be given paper lanterns in the shapes of rabbits, fish and carambolas that we would carry around like giant fireflies in the night.

That year, after the Armstrong landing, Granny refused to celebrate Mid-Autumn.

"The Americans already landed on the moon. They didn't see Chang'e or the rabbit or the osmanthus tree. It's all a lie."

Young as we were, we grandchildren all detected sorrow and disappointment in our granny's voice and we gathered around her protectively. She relented a little and we still had our mooncakes.

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