The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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It was 1976, my mom Zhen was 9 years old. She had told me this story before we she talked about her childhood. This is a piece of good memory to her. I asked more questions about it because I haven’t experienced an earthquake. 
It was not a big earthquake and luckily almost everyone was sitting on the open field. She described,

One Saturday night in late summer, the residential campus Zhen lived in offered a free movie. The movie was from North Korea and it was about building a new agriculture infrastructure.

People from the town center came to the campus every weekend to bring the newest movies. They set up equipment on a stage and people brought their own chairs and sat on the open dirt field. The movies were boring sometimes, such as this one. Zhen wasn’t interested in what the North Koreans were building, especially because she was living near a dam site. There was a big river right outside the campus and the dam site was only a mile upstream. She had seen enough construction sites. She sat there quietly and didn’t pay much attention until there was a scene of the leading actor drilling with a jackhammer.

This scene attracted her attention because it was so real. She could see the actor's entire body shaking with the jackhammer and she almost started to shake along with him. The sound effect was also great, loud and stereophonic. She felt the actor was drilling right in front of her. Sometimes she felt the ground shaking when the dam site did explosions. So, she was not very surprised. This feeling was not new to her.

But no. The scene changed and she still felt shaking. She turned to her parents and realized everybody around all looked puzzled. People looked at each other, as if they couldn't believe themselves and wanted to prove they were not crazy. They stood up and found out their chairs were shaking as well. There was an increasing cracking sound of the wood and bamboo furniture. Suddenly the person operating the movie equipment jumped onto the stage and shouted: "It's an earthquake!"

"Oh this is an earthquake." Zhen looked down to the ground and felt it. Before she could feel panic or other emotion, her parents grabbed her and walked towards another campus in the east. Zhen’s older brother was living there. Other people also picked their chairs up and hurried home to find their family members who didn’t attend the movie. But surprisingly, there was talking, loud talking, but no panicking nor screaming. It was probably because they had been used to the explosions at the dam site.

Before they even left the campus, Zhen and her parents saw her brother running towards them. When they returned to the dirt field, people had started setting up emergency tents. Kids were exempted from this work and didn’t waste enough energy before bed time. That was why Zhen refused to go to bed that night. She and her friends were running through every tent "visiting" every family who was trying to sleep. Her strict mom didn't stop her because she didn't have any extra energy to do so. No one was injured, nothing was destroyed, but it was still an exhausting night to most of the people. Only the kids became excited, "we can stay together all night!"

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Summer 1976
Gansu Province, China

It was 1976, my mom Zhen was 9 years old. She had told me this story before we she talked about her childhood. This is a piece of good memory to her. I asked more questions about it because I haven’t experienced an earthquake.
It was not a big earthquake and luckily almost everyone was sitting on the open field. She described, "Only a piece of ceiling fell down." After that night, people stayed in the tents for another week. Living in a big tent and not having to say bye to friends was the best to little kids. She had a lot of fun.
The movie she watched the most times was "Lenin in 1918". The scariest movie (documentary) was about the excavation of a 100BC tomb. There was a well preserved female body, but her face was swollen and became as twice big.

Decade: 1970s
Rating:
Recorded by Yiping Peng on December 7, 2017
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