the quality of having great facility and competence
The largest says that in the twenty-third year of the National Republic, the To Keung School of Midwifery, where she has had two years of instruction and Hospital Practice, awards its Diploma to my mother, who has shown through oral and written examination her
Proficiency in Midwifery, Pediatrics, Gynecology, “Medecine,” “Surgary,” Therapeutics, Ophthalmology, Bacteriology, Dermatology, Nursing, and Bandage.
The quotation marks are Kingston's way of showing that the two misspellings are the school's and not hers. By highlighting the school's mistakes on an official document, Kingston seems to be questioning the proficiency that a student, such as her mother, could acquire from that school. This theme is shown throughout the book, as Kingston shows both respect for and disagreement with her mother's knowledge, strength, and methods.
all future generations
My mother is not smiling; Chinese do not smile for photographs. Their faces command relatives in foreign lands—“Send money”—and
posterity forever—“Put food in front of this picture.”
state of subjection to an owner or master
Free from families, my mother would live for two years without
derive or receive pleasure from
relished these scare orgies.
The words "relish" and "orgy" in the same sentence suggest a sexual wildness, which Kingston had hinted at when she was writing about an unknown aunt, but here she is talking about her mother and ghost stories. Kingston's choice of words could connect to her own timid nature that would not relish being scared.
give evidence for
validate ghost sightings.
guided by experience and observation rather than theory
practical woman, she could not invent stories and told only true ones.
call forth to appear or occur
The ghost might hear her too; she did not know whether her voice would
evoke it or disperse it.
cut small bits from
She became sharply herself—bone, wire, antenna—but she was not afraid. She had been
pared down like this before, when she had travelled up the mountains into rare snow—alone in white not unlike being alone in black.
face and withstand with courage
There is no pain you can inflict that I cannot
obtain by seizing forcibly or violently, also metaphorically
I would have cut it up, and we would be mopping blood this morning, but—a Sitting Ghost mutation—it had an extra arm that
wrested my hand away from the knife.
a widespread outbreak of an infectious disease
She stayed awake keeping watch nightly in an
epidemic and chanted during air raids.
marked by good fortune
With an American pencil, she wrote a word, a
felicitous word such as “longevity” or “double joy,” which is symmetrical.
showing inventiveness and skill
How else do you suppose I think of such
excessively fastidious and easily disgusted
She was not
squeamish, though, and deftly caught spewings that were sometimes babies, sometimes monsters.
skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
She was not squeamish, though, and deftly caught spewings that were sometimes babies, sometimes monsters.
separate the limbs from the body
Once the third aunt who worked at the laundry ran out and bought us bags of candy to hold over our noses; my mother was
dismembering skunk on the chopping block.
be engaged in a fight
My mother could
contend against the hairy beasts whether flesh or ghost because she could eat them, and she could not-eat them on the days when good people fast.
My mother and the women her age talked about how similar this day was to the orderly days long ago when they walked up the mountain to collect firewood, only now they could
dally without the mothers-in-law scolding.
Compare the definitions of "dally" and "efficient" and note that this description of Brave Orchid dallying came before she emigrated and became a mother of six children.
being effective without wasting time, effort, or expense
We ran, screaming to our mother, who efficiently shut the window.
characteristic of a throwback
Her palm lines do not branch into head, heart, and life lines like other people’s but crease with just one
To be atavistic is to be characteristic of a throwback, usually to an earlier way of life or thinking. Kingston uses "atavistic" to describe a physical crease on her mother's palm that folds back onto itself. With this description, Kingston distinguishes her mother from other people, yet also suggests that her mother is less connected and forward-facing than others (which is contradicted two sentences later with the description of her mother adopting American fashions).
any painful disorder of the joints or muscles
rheumatism washing potatoes, squatting over potatoes.
a feeling of righteous anger
My mother and father have stoked each other’s
indignation for almost forty years telling stories about land quarrels among the uncles, the in-laws, the grandparents.
sad beyond comforting
I want every one of you living here together. When you’re all home, all six of you with your children and husbands and wives, there are twenty or thirty people in this house. Then I’m happy. And your father is happy. Whichever room I walk into overflows with my relatives, grandsons, sons-in-law. I can’t turn around without touching somebody. That’s the way a house should be.” Her eyes are big,
be placed or located between other things
She pries open my head and my fists and crams into them responsibility for time, responsibility for
Another definition of the verb "intervene" is "get involved, so as to alter or hinder an action"--in the example sentence, Kingston is referring to the oceans that separate family, but the adjective "intervening" can also describe her view of her mother's desired influence on her life. Kingston welcomes the intervening oceans more than she does her intervening mother.
the act of showing affection
She has not called me that
endearment for years—a name to fool the gods.