by Margo Fallis
A Picnic Under the Cherry
Tiny, pale pink flowers burst from
tight buds, filling the delicate branches with clusters of cherry
blossoms. For as far as the eye could see, the trees lining the streets
and growing in the parks. It looked like an ocean of pink rippling waves,
dotted with whitecaps, which were the tips of the blossoms. An occasional
tulip and daffodil bobbed up and down on the swells.
"Letís sit here, Grandfather,"
Bo-Lin urged, pulling on his bony hand to get him to sit down.
"All right, Bo-Lin, this looks just
fine," he said.
He began to lower his tired, sore
body. Before he reached the ground, Bo-Lin stopped him in mid-air. "Wait,
Grandfather. Let me spread out the blanket first." She shook the wool
blanket and laid it on top of a patch of soft, green grass. The red and
yellow colors blended in nicely with the tulips growing nearby.
"Grandfather, you can sit down now."
He bent his knees and fell onto the
blanket. He set the woven bamboo picnic basket down on the grass and
stretched his legs. "Come here, Bo-Lin," he called to his granddaughter.
"Come and see this."
Bo-Lin threw herself down on the
blanket next to her grandfather. Her long black hair whipped the air. He
slid his arm around her arm and pulled her close. He pointed towards a
pond in the other side of the park. "The pond is very big," he said.
Grandfather sighed, as if remembering something, perhaps from his younger
days. It caused a wave of nostalgia to ripple through his heart. "Over
there," he continued, pointing another direction, "is where your mother
was born. Our house used to be there. Now itís nothing but modern
buildings. We used to have fishpond and a lot of flowers. Your mother was
very beautiful, Bo-Lin."
"Iím hungry," Bo-Lin cried out,
bursting her grandfatherís train of thought. "I want an egg roll!" she
Grandfather laughed and squeezed her
tight. "Yes, Bo-Lin, weíll eat, and then I want to take you to the pond.
Will you go with me? I want you to see something."
Bo-Lin nodded yes and then
announced, "Letís eat." She reached into the picnic basket and pulled out
some egg rolls. "What kind of sauces did Grandmother put in the basket?"
she wondered. She lifted up two containers. Peeling one of them open she
said, "Soy sauce for you, Grandfather." The other one was filled with ruby
red sweet and sour sauce. "This is for me," she said and dipped her egg
roll into it. "Grandmother put some chicken in the basket too. Would you
like some?" she asked.
"That would be nice, Bo-Lin," he
answered. Bo-Lin put some on a small paper plate and handed it to her
grandfather. She made up a plate for herself and the two of them sat
quietly, enjoying their food.
The sky was filled with fluffy,
tufts-of-cotton clouds being swept along by a gentle breeze. It was
blowing down on them through the canyons of the tall, tree-covered
mountains. A few blackbirds with bright orange beaks flew overhead, cawing
and squawking, as if they were debating whether to come and invade the
picnic, but out of respect for the serenity of the moment, chose to fly
on. Now and then a whiff of cherry blossom-scented air was sent their way.
"Grandfather?" Bo-Lin asked, "What
do you want me to see at the pond? Is there something pretty in it?"
Grandfather laughed out loud.
"Bo-Lin, thereís something I want to show you that reminds me of your
mother; something very special to her, and to me."
"Letís finish our food quickly and
then weíll go. I want to see the pond," Bo-Lin said, suddenly very
She jumped up and pulled on
Grandfatherís hand. He stood, feeling stiff, yet not in pain. Bo-Lin
gathered all the rubbish and put it in the basket. Grandfather shook the
blanket off, folded it up, and then set it on top of the closed picnic
basket, carefully, so that he could still hold the handle. "Letís go," he
said. He took Bo-Linís hand in his and they headed towards the pond.
A small brook flowed into the pond.
The two of them stopped and watched it. It was so quiet that the trickling
of the small brook seemed to hypnotize them for a few moments. They
listened as the water danced past them. "Be careful not to get your feet
wet," Grandfather warned. He stepped over it. Bo-Lin jumped and was quite
proud that sheíd made it without getting her feet soaking wet.
Seeing the pond gave Grandfather
comfort. He knew that soon heíd be able to rest on one of the benches
sitting around it. Bo-Lin, in all her youth and innocence, let go of his
hand and to the pond. "Grandfather. Iíll race you. Iíll win," she bragged.
Grandfather was quite happy to let her win. Bo-Lin reached the pond first,
as expected, and started to throw small pebbles into the water.
"Grandfather, hurry. The pond is clear and you can see things in the
bottom of it."
He walked as fast as he could and
soon stood next to Bo-Lin. He peered down at the water. "There are a lot
of things in there. Hmmm. I see some fish. This is what I wanted to show
you, Bo-Lin. See those fish, the big ones? They are called koi,"
Grandfather said. He pointed at the huge fish.
"Those fish are big! Look how funny
they look. They are orange and silver and have splotches all over them.
Are they supposed to look like that, Grandfather?" Bo-Lin questioned.
"Yes, they are a special kind of
fish," he said. He pulled a small paper bag out of his pocket. "This is
fish food. Hold out your hand and Iíll give you some." He poured the fish
food into Bo-Linís cupped hands.
"What do I do with it?" she asked.
"Toss a few pellets at a time into
the water and watch the fish come and eat it," Grandfather explained.
Bo-Lin threw a few bits into the
water. Suddenly dozens of koi swam around the food, fighting and squirming
to get it. Bo-Lin laughed. "Look at the fish, Grandfather. Their lips are
big and they have whiskers."
Grandfather smiled. He watched his
granddaughter as she fed the whole bag of food to the fish. When she
smiled, it made his heart pound. She reminded him so much of her mother.
Fish splashed on Bo-Lin as they fought for their portion of the food. She
giggled. When the food was finished, Bo-Lin stood next to her grandfather.
"The koi were hungry. The water is so clear. What are those things
floating on top?" she asked.
"Those are lotus. They are
beautiful, arenít they? We had lotus in our pond and your mother would
pick the flowers and put them in her hair," Grandfather sighed.
"Can I do that? Can I pick a lotus
flower?" Bo-Lin asked.
"This is not our pond, Bo-Lin. It
belongs to everyone. Letís enjoy the flowers as they float on the water,"
Grandfather cautioned. They sat on a bench and watched the fish swim and
the flowers float. A small bird, pale brown with a red throat and head,
landed on a cherry tree next to them. "Shhhh," said Grandfather. "Look at
the bird. It is beautiful. Everything here is beautiful; the blossoms on
the cherry trees, the fish in the pond, the lotus flowers, and the birdsÖ"
he trailed off. A tear ran down his eyes.
"Why are you crying, Grandfather,"
"I am crying with gratitude for
living in such a beautiful country. We are very fortunate to be able to
see such marvels of nature." Bo-Lin looked around her. Among the cherry
trees were rose bushes filled with yellow flowers. Butterflies, pale green
and orange, fluttered about the roses. Birds chirped in the trees, singing
pretty little melodies to each other. She understood what her grandfather
meant. He stood up, picked up the picnic basket and said, "It is time to
go now, Bo-Lin." He took her hand and they walked home. From then on,
Bo-Lin took a little more notice of the beautiful things around her.
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