A Childhood in Hualien: Memories of Betel Nut Trees and Summer Nights

I heard Garcia. Marquis was raised by his grandparents, as was I.

I lived in Hualien until I was in elementary school. At that time, the whole of Taiwan was fighting for the economy, only one day off a week, no one went to the back hills when they were on vacation, there was no five-star hotel in Hualien, and train tickets were easy to book.

My parents were also fighting for the economy. At that time, both of them were young, and the child was easy to have, but it was difficult to earn money. So, around the full moon, I was sent to Hualien. Hualien is the home of my grandparents. I grew up with my aunts and uncles, riding a tricycle, picking honeycombs, picking peanuts, picking sugarcane, frying cow dung, catching fish by the river, roasting sweet potatoes in a kiln, eating ice in a sugar factory, and shooting birds in a house with a slingshot. …

There is a garden in front of Grandpa’s family cheng. In the early days, plane trees were planted, and later they were replanted with betel nuts. The betel nut tree is slender and tall. Compared with the sycamore tree, the tree body is clean and has no complicated branches. It grows straight to the height of half a day before bursting a cluster of leaves. I always feel that such a tree is not a tree, but a huge grass.

In short, when the betel nut tree grows, Grandpa’s garden becomes much brighter. The light can come in and the shadows can come out. the sound of the sea. On a sunny day, standing under the tree and looking up, the feathery green leaves are graceful and graceful, paired with the blue sky, white clouds and bird shadows, it has a Nanyang style.

The betel nut tree is actually elegant and delicate, but it has a bad reputation. Grandpa wanted to plant betel nuts, but his family didn’t approve of it at first, but he planted them anyway. Who taught him that he is a grandpa.

The area of ​​the garden is not big, and it may be less than a hundred trees. Even so, the betel nut fruit grows at the end of the tree, like the balls in the trousers of a giant, and it is not easy to harvest. Every year in the midsummer, Grandfather would spend money to hire a few workers to cut betel nuts. Those workers love to drink, pairing wine with meals, and pairing wine with work. Their eyes are always blurred and their bodies never stop shaking. After drinking the wine bottles, they threw them into the garden, and they couldn’t see them once the grass covered them.

The leaves of the betel nut tree are covered by the leaf sheaths. When the leaf sheaths are ripe, they will fall away from the tree body, like a corpse falling from mid-air. The betel leaf sheath is very long, and the leaf sheath can be as tall as an adult. The texture is very tough. When it is full of water, it looks like beef jerky, and when it is drier, it looks like over-cooked squid.

Kids love betel leaf sheaths, that’s a great toy.

This is how it is played, all the feathery leaves are removed, leaving only a petiole, which acts as a handle. When the leaf sheath is flattened, it is actually like a soft leather cushion, enough for several children to sit on. A strong driver (usually my uncle) will drag us forward, just like pulling a cart. The leaf sheath is thick and tough, wear-resistant, and can be played for a while. When the buttocks are felt, turn over and check, there is often a small hole in the pants, which is enough for grandma to scold for a long time.

It is rainy in summer, and when it rains, the garden is filled with water. Pulling a cart is like pulling a boat. It is another kind of fun to play. The rain reduces friction, the speed is faster, and it doesn’t hurt if you fall, making it more fun.

It’s night.

The room is still hot and stuffy. After dinner and a bath, the adults would grab a few chairs and go to the courtyard to enjoy the cool and chat. The night sky is gloomy and the stars are luxuriant, like a tree full of fruits. There are shadows in the garden, and there is a sound from time to time, as if there is a ghost, so the children naturally dare not enter again. While the adults were chatting, we would play in the courtyard, sometimes catching beetles, sometimes playing on the grid, and throwing the skins of the melons and fruits we had eaten into the garden.

Sometimes, we also sat down and listened to grandpa and grandma talking about ancient times with their neighbors. The adults are shaking fans (which are also cut from betel nut leaf sheaths), whispering, and the evening breeze is blowing. Sometimes, we doze off on the chairs. It is not fashionable to watch the clock in the countryside. Yawn, that’s when it’s time to sleep.

And betel nut trees will not stop shaking in the deep sleepy night, they are like this in nature, and they are still like this after many years.

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