The Second Original Writing Competition
Primary School Group
Platinum Award

Written by 
Zhang Yifei, West Shilin Primary School, Shaanxi Province, China 
Date: May, 2017

The sky, still so blue; Clouds, still so brilliantly white; The sun’s rays, beaming down in a constant stream, stacked thread upon thread, wrapped line upon line. While passions still move the hearts of men, my heart remains unstoked.

In thinking back, so many memories of childhood come to mind – that kindly face; that figure, bent over at the waist, ready to wash my feet. Back then, I didn’t think much about it really. I loved horsing around, kicking at the water with my feet until the spray had mercilessly soaked her completely. But she truly seemed never to anger. She’d always let me play on as I wanted. This simply encouraged me to kick even harder, sending waves of frothy water in her direction. She never spoke a word but just sent warm, friendly glances in my direction. ‘She’ … is my beloved grandmother.

I remember clearly the first television commercial to catch my attention. It featured a boy of 3 or 4 years of age who was struggling to move a basin that was almost as big as he was. It was filled with hot water and he was moving it, push by strenuous push, toward his grandfather. It was just one basin, but it had splashed enough along the way to mark his path clearly in water and to soak himself thoroughly. Finally reaching his grandfather, the boy began washing his elder’s feet amateurishly with his soft, clumsy white hands, regularly looking upward into his grandfather’s face, smiling brightly. For his part, the grandfather was overcome with emotion at his grandson’s gesture, and his eyes brimmed with tears. 

After seeing this commercial, I began thinking of my own experience so many years ago. My face turned beet red and I was overcome by a deep-set sense of awkwardness. Then, an idea emerged that ricocheted around inside my skull. “Me …” I thought. “I can do that too.”

I immediately found a basin and filled it full of hot water. I then pulled Grandma without explanation out into the courtyard and had her sit on the stool that I had already prepared. “Grandma,” I said with an air of playful mystery, “Let me wash your feet once!” My request caught her off guard, and she chuckled, “How did the sun get to rise in the west today?” I responded immediately in an embarrassed, flustered voice, saying, “Grandma, don’t be upset. I … I was little then and didn’t know any better!” She nodded rather incredulously and then shook her head slowly back and forth. I couldn’t tell what she meant … Was she telling me ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Grandma, seeing me staring blankly at her, said in her calm, composed voice, “Kid, what’s up? Your good intentions are more than enough for me.” Her words brought me back to reality. She was refusing my offer! I couldn’t help but use my trump card – my skills at coaxing and pestering Grandma to get my way. She collapsed under my withering offensive and agreed, albeit still reluctantly. 

I quickly fell to my knees in front of Grandma, rolled up my sleeves and prepared to remove her socks. Looking up into her timeworn face, I felt a sharp twinge of remorse. Why do I normally choose to see only the kindly side of Grandma and overlook her growing collection of white hairs and the lengthening lines of age upon her skin?

After removing Grandma’s socks, the state of her feet came as a surprise. What were these? Soft and supple skin had been replaced by a landscape of blue veins, while Grandma’s once plump and healthy feet were now rough and skinny. Gazing over these feet that had walked for over half a century, I was overcome with a cacophony of emotions. Her ankles were marred by several scars of varying depths; the nails on her big toes had grown into the skin along both sides; and the balls of her feet were dry and coarse. From her feet, I could tell that Grandma had lived a hard life. I froze, transfixed for a while, which led Grandma to suspect that I’d backed out of our plan. With a passing glance of mild disappointment, she said, “Okay, get up sweetheart. Grandma will do this herself.” But, I’d already seen the disappointment in her eyes. “No! I’m doing what I said I would,” I shot back, resolutely. I lowered my head and gingerly picked up Grandma’s feet. Carefully, I scooped up a ladleful of already somewhat tepid water. I somewhat hoped that the hot tears flowing down my cheeks into the basin would raise the temperature within by a few degrees.

These feet had trudged countless kilometers of painfully prickly and mercilessly muddy roadways. These feet had created a smooth, wide passageway for us to move forward. How much had these feet sacrificed to make our lives better?

After pondering a while, a welcome feeling of peace and calm swept over me. I gently clasped Grandma’s feet in my hands and single-mindedly dried them off with a towel. My movements were deliberate and gentle. I dared not even breathe too heavily, as if I was entrusted with the delicate, easily bruised skin of a newborn.

Grandma’s ‘ordinary’ feet are truly extraordinary.

The sky, still so blue; Clouds, still so brilliantly white; The sun’s rays, beaming down in a constant stream, stacked thread upon thread, wrapped line upon line. Passions still move the hearts of men, and have long since dispelled all traces of bitter chill from mine. The seeds of love, awakened by the sunshine in my heart, bring a warmth that even now I remember and still cherish.

Comments of Reviewer 1

1. This essay creates a heartwarming scene where the author washes the feet of her grandmother. The reference to sunshine in her heart recalls the description of Wang Dingjun’s happy, unforgettable childhood with his mother in his work “A Patch of Sunlight”.

2. The author contrasts her experience of having her feet washed as a child by her grandmother and how her grandmother allowed her to splash playfully, even to the point of becoming drenched herself, with the experience later in life of washing her grandmother’s feet. Only then does she discover how rough and worn her aged grandmother’s feet had become through a half century of use. Her ankles even bear scars of varying degrees of severity. In looking into her grandmother’s face, she sees the lines of time and the growing number of white hairs on her head. This leads the author to an epiphany: Her grandmother’s feet have walked across mud and thorns in order that her grandchildren might enjoy an easier life and better prospects. The author saw in the ordinary her grandmother’s extraordinary accomplishments. This article is rich in both content and writing style, expresses deep and genuine affections, reveals true emotions throughout, and readily pulls at readers’ heartstrings.

Comments of Reviewer 2

The meticulous and emotive use of words creates an exquisite narrative on a remembered experience of the author washing her grandmother’s feet. Portrayals of visual and tactile experiences and conversations intertwine the emotions of the moment with the foot-washing process, enticing readers into the created space and into experiencing the emotions themselves.