Sunday Snippet: Judy Fong Bates

The loving father often told his daughter: “The first generation plants the tree; the next generation enjoys the shade.”

A couple of months back, you might remember me mentioning The Year of Finding Memory by Judy Fong Bates. The memoir recounts her journey back to her ancestral village in China, some fifty years since she left that country for Canada. It also discusses her early years in Canada and the memories she had of her parents.

You may have also listened the audio clip when Joseph Planta interviewed her. I just finished reading the book and, while I was born in Canada, I can really identify with some of the sentiments that she expressed about going back to her “homeland.” Fong Bates feels that she is much more of a Canadian than she is Chinese, and as such, she feels a greater connection to our political and social conventions.

The quote above, as you can probably imagine, comes from The Year of Finding Memory and it is the line that she oftentimes heard from her father. He suffered greatly to provide for his family, sacrificing much so that the next generation (Judy) could lead a happier and more prosperous life.

Let’s face it. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise, life is hard. You may as well make your efforts worth something, leaving the world a better place after you leave. In this way, the “first generation” can plant that tree so that the following generations can enjoy the shade. This is intimately connected to your legacy and, for me, I think my legacy is my writing. Words outlive their authors.

I don’t have any children of my own, but I do understand how their arrival can drastically alter your outlook on life. You can gain a better grasp of your life’s purpose: to provide for them and to give them every advantage that you did not have. As Danny Kaye said, “Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.”

Let’s just hope all that paint becomes a beautiful work of art that many generations to come can enjoy.