It was Friday, the sunset of Spring had the colour of newly squeezed orange juice.
I had planned to go out with my friends for a drink after work, but Mum called me right before I was off from work. She sounded so cheerful, “My colleagues and I are going to have a Spring picnic tomorrow, I want them to try those famous buns from Bread Charm*; after you finished work, please buy me a dozen.”.
“Picnic?” Without thinking, I refused to do so, “Mum, I don’t have time, I have arrangement with my friends already.”
Mum kept saying, “Just a dozen of buns, won’t take you too long. There is a Bread Charm* closes to your office.” while I kept saying, “It’s odd to carry a dozen of buns to go out with my friends.”. Finally she became angry, so I reluctantly agreed.
I wanted to have it done ASAP, so right after work, I rushed to Bread Charm*. But when I got closer to the store, my heart sunk, because there was a long queue of people waiting outside the store.
I had been moving with the queue very slowly, I kept looking at my watch and checking the movement of the queue. Finally after 20 minutes, I was inside the store.
I had been standing for a very long time and started to feel dizzy due to hunger or whatever. When I thought of my friends, who must be having fun right now, I became anxious.
The unique warm soft breeze of Spring surrounding me, together with the freshly baked bread aroma, somehow I was wrapped in an explosive anger:
- What is Mum thinking, not resting at home during weekend but to have picnic with her colleagues?
- Spring picnic, simply a child’s thing! What’s the fun for a group of old ladies go Spring picnic?
More or less the same time, someone at the front of the queue started a heated argument, so a storekeeper came to settle the argument and take our orders. By the look of things, I would be the last one of the 3rd round to get the buns – finally I got something solid to look forward to.
I became relax a bit and then there was a soft voice coming from my back, “Excuse me.” I turned around, it was a 50+ years old woman, whom I did not know. I replied with a short “What?”.
With an almost humble smile, she said to me, “You see, I am right behind you, by the look of things, you should be the last one to get the buns from the 3rd round. I need to buy some buns for my son, he will have Spring picnic with his class tomorrow. Since I need to rush back home to prepare dinner then take him to tutor lesson. If you are not in a rush, I wonder, ummm…”. May be she thought it was a bit odd to ask me to swap my spot with her, so she asked, “May I ask whom are you buying the buns for?” I replied, “For my Mum, she will have Spring picnic on tomorrow as well.”
Then something very strange happened, the whole store became very quiet and all eyes cast on me. Someone in the queue asked, “Whom did you say you are buying the buns for?”
I had not got the chance to respond, the storekeeper had already said, “Ah, we have sold few hundred bags today and you are the first customer to buy for Mum.”
I looked around the store and realised nearly everyone in the queue were older women, everyone of them had large and small bags, which kind of identified them as housewives and/or mothers.
“Then how about you?”, I asked.
“Of course for our little precious ones!”, someone else answered and others laughed to show as kind of an agreement.
Then the lady who was standing behind me said, “Oh, I am terribly sorry! I’d never thought you would be willing to wait for such long time. That’s incredible! Originally, I did not plan to come here, but since my son said he wants to have Bread Charm*’s buns for Spring picnic, so I came. When I was young, I also wanted to have different types of snacks for my Spring picnics.”. Suddenly her face emerged out a wistful expression.
I asked her, “You still remember what happened during those Spring picnics?”
She smiled, “Of course! Every year I still want to go for a Spring picnic, even if I could only sit on the lawn and have a bit of natural Vitamin D. But I am way too busy now!” She sighed, “Maybe I will have the chance when my son reaches your age.”.
So, Spring picnic was not something my Mum had just decided, it was something she (or even her colleagues) had wanted for all these years? I am my Mum’s daughter, and yet I never knew about what she wanted.
The lady behind me was holding bags of drinks, biscuits, chips, lollies and more, they must be very heavy, because she kept changing hands, however, she did not want to put the bags down to have a rest, she explained to me, “I don’t want the packages to be squashed.”. She paused a bit then said, “I am looking forward to the day my son can buy things for me!”. She looked at me with those kind of hope and said, “That day should not be too far away.”
Just because my existence in the store, this lady is having such big believe in her son? And I kept using different excuses to refuse helping my Mum. My heart started to ache.
Then the new round of freshly baked buns were ready, the aroma exploded like an atomic bomb. The lady stood in front of me turned around and said to me, “Let’s swap spot, so you can buy the buns for your Mum quicker.”
I was shock with her offer, “No thanks, you have waited for such long time already.”, she did not listen to me and had already moved behind me. Her slightly aged face was the living evidence of torture, she spoke to me with the warmth and determination only mothers have, “But you Mum has waited for over 20 years.”.
The old lady who stood in front of this lady smiled at me and moved one step aside, then the one in front of her did the same without saying one word.
There they were, one by one, quietly and calmly, moved one step aside, so a little path had formed in front of where I stood to the cashier.
I stood there, stunned and did not know what to do, then someone urged me, “Come on, be quick! Your Mum is waiting for you at home.”.
I looked at them, each of them were smiling at me, it seemed their looks were filled with hope and kindness.
Suddenly I realised, at that moment, they were not looking at me, they were looking at their grown up kids. I wondered if each of them had this little dream – that one day, when their kids all grown up, they would buy some freshly baked buns home for the parents, even right after work.
The walk to the cashier had suddenly became very long, I carefully walked pass every one of them, just like walking through each of their kids’ life.
* a made-up name.