1995 / 4月
Chang Yu-ning, USA /tr. by Robert Taylor
The year I arrived in the USA, I met with my first long holiday. It was going to last from mid-December right through to New Year's Day, a straight two weeks. I would have my work cut out to find things for my four kids to do every day, for firstly whatever we did had to be affordable, secondly it had to be novel and full of variety, and thirdly I didn't want to overdo things, so that when school started they would be able to calm down again. When I went to the local cash-and-carry supermarket to buy lights for the Christmas tree, I took the opportunity to cadge a large piece of cardboard, fully nine feet long by four foot six wide. My idea was to give the children a surface to paint on, and the subject was to be "A Concert in the Park."
To my surprise, the children all set to with enthusiasm, some painting a mothers' singing group, some painting the accompanying orchestra, along with a blue sky, the green grass and red flowers of the park, and fountains, trees, butterflies and birds, to make a vivid, richly colorful picture. Some parts they drew with wax crayons or colored pencils, while some they painted with brushes and water colors. They put lifelike and amusing expressions on the faces of the people in the painting, such as the singers, players, conductor, audience and visitors strolling through the park. My wife and I helped from the sidelines by keeping them supplied with painting materials, offering our suggestions and encouragement, and refuelling them with snacks and drinks as necessary. The whole family pitched in, and we were busy for three full days! But finally the cardboard was covered all over with color, and everyone agreed there was no more space on which to display their talents. Then we all picked up the painting and hung it on the wall opposite the living room fireplace, and stood back with eyes wide to admire our work. Everyone felt immensely proud, and what I was proudest of was that the project had got the whole family working together.
The following year the teachers at my children's school chose my two daughters to take part in an art and writing competition put on by the parent teachers' association. The girls used our painting to illustrate that year's topic: "I Have a Dream--Let Music be the Language of Peace." As the children had only been learning English for a year, they were rather daunted by the task, and so the whole family set to--looking up words in the dictionary, searching out materials, typing on the computer, designing the cover--and thus produced a magnificent "magnumopus" with over ten pages of pictures and text. Finally they were lucky enough to win the first round of the competition. The prize was the latest edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. After that experience, every year since then the children have signed up for the competition of their own accord. Whether or not they win anything doesn't matter half as much as the enjoyment they get from doing their best, thus showing the truth of the saying "participation is its own reward."
Brothers and sisters Yuan-chi, Yuan-hsin, Yuan-pu and Yuan-chen in front of "The Painting," holding their beloved violins.
Part of "The Painting."