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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
A Picnic Under the Cherry Blossoms

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 demanded.

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 curious.

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."

Picnic Under the Cherry Blossoms 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," Bo-Lin asked.

"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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