Before going to bed on the first night of the new year, Lu Ying carefully placed the large red envelope under his pillow. Feeling the hard paper was so full of security! Oh, he hated it, so inconvenient to hold so much cash, so stressful. He needed to remind himself all the time to be careful; don’t lose it, you can’t lose it, don’t lose it.
With this infinite chanting in his mind, Lu Ying drifted off to sleep when there was a ding sound of a text message on his mobile phone. With a jolt, he raised his hand to pick up the phone and saw the familiar name. It was indeed the man. Who else would send him a text message these days, apart from Qin Zhuopu and the spam advertising mobile phone operators?
Qin Zhuopu: Asleep? I’ve just laid down. Today I talked to Grandpa a lot about the company and about you and Zaizai.
Lu Ying: I’m asleep.
Qin Zhuopu: I’ll pick you and Zaizai up to have dinner at my place, is that okay? Grandpa’s house has prepared a lot of delicious food, you will definitely like it.
Lu Ying: Sorry, I don’t want to go. At least not right now.
Qin Zhuopu: I understand. Don’t be sorry, you’re right.
Lu Ying: I’m going to sleep then.
Qin Zhuopu: Chat with me. Talk about anything.
Lu Ying: You big boss, text messaging is expensive! Are you an old man who has never used WeChat?
Qin Zhuopu: You didn’t add me to WeChat.
Lu Ying hummed and opened WeChat, flipped through it, and sure enough, he saw Qin Zhuopu’s application record, so he approved it. Qin Zhuopu’s avatar was a sea, his WeChat name was his real name, and his Moments were full of forwarded national events, people’s major life events, corporate-related stuff… ennnn… and health-related stuff.
-_-|| It was really like the Moments of the security guard at the entrance of the community.
Lu Ying’s was different. Lu Ying’s avatar was a hundred-day photo of Zaizai, who looked completely like a milk dumpling, a small fleshy lump, lying on a fluffy blanket, his plump hands holding his foot and pulling it into his mouth. A pair of bright eyes looked at the camera innocently, as if they could see your heart.
When Qin Zhuopu clicked on the avatar and stared at the innocent baby, it was as if something had stabbed him in his heart. It was a different experience than when he saw Lu Zaizai in person.
Lu Ying’s WeChat name was also very clear, called ‘Perfect Dad’.
Qin Zhuopu subconsciously clicked on Lu Ying’s Moments, and it was a good thing that Lu Ying’s Moments were completely open. Lu Ying’s latest Moments were related to his work in the bakery. The intervals were long, sometimes one a month, sometimes two a month, almost always about work. Until Qin Zhuopu scrolled to the very bottom, the time three years ago in September.
Perfect Dad: Zaizai officially starts kindergarten today! What’s wrong with wanting to cry… Pictures 1 – 9.
The pictures were of Zaizai in kindergarten for the first time, the three-year-old Zaizai, with a smiling face and in tears.
Scrolling further down the page, Lu Ying posted more frequently then, almost all of the posts about the child. Qin Zhuopu kept swiping and swiping to the bottom. Sure enough, Lu Ying’s first Moments was six years ago.
Perfect Dad: Year xxxx, on the 15th of the first lunar month, my son was born(1).
It was as if he had followed Lu Ying’s path of six years and unconsciously, his body felt hollowed out.
Perfect Dad: Are you looking at my Moments?
Qin Zhuopu: En.
Perfect Dad: ^_^ Zaizai was cute when he was little, right?
Qin Zhuopu: Yes, very cute. He is also very cute now.
Perfect Dad: You told him today that you were going to buy him a toy, right?
Qin Zhuopu: I bought a lot of them in America, but I didn’t bring them.
Perfect Dad: He will take such a promise seriously and will always remember it. So, don’t break your promise.
Qin Zhuopu: Absolutely not.
Perfect Dad: I know you’re busy sometimes and can’t get away. I’ll send you the mailing address, and if you’re not free, you can send it directly to me. Toys don’t need to be expensive, but you have to keep your promise to the children.
Qin Zhuopu: Lu Ying, I have never gone back on my word.
Perfect Dad: I trust you this time, and Zaizai trusts you too. It’s late, I’m going to bed.
Qin Zhuopu: Go to sleep, good night.
Perfect Dad: …Good night.
Lu Ying went to sleep with peace of mind, knowing that Zaizai would get that toy.
Much sooner than expected.
The next evening, there was a call from the courier on his mobile phone, asking him to pick up the package at the entrance of the community. Puzzled, Lu Ying hurriedly asked: “My SF Express? Can you tell me what it probably is?”
The courier boy who had to work on the second day of the New Year replied in a loud voice: “It’s a toy. How long do you think it will take you to come over? I’m only staying here for two hours.”
“Oh!” Lu Ying suddenly understood and quickly pulled Zaizai down the mountain to the town to retrieve the package.
Lu Zaizai bounced along the road, hugging a big box almost as tall as he was, and rushed back, calling out to his big brother Qin Xiaotu: “Brother Xiaotu! Look at my super big Lego! Brother Xiaotu, let’s put it together!”
Qin Xiaotu was also very happy to see the Lego. He was so bored on the mountain that he was reduced to playing with his kindergarten little brother. Just the thought of it could bring tears to one’s eyes!
Lu Zaizai’s cheeks were flushed as he unwrapped the package and showed off, “This is the toy my uncle gave me, it’s cool, right?”
“En.” Qin Xiaotu agreed. The price was really cool. Will Uncle Lu vomit blood when he knows?
Lu Ying, who stood next to them, watching them play, asked, “Xiaotu, is this box very expensive?”
“It’s okay, just a few thousand yuan.” Qin Xiaotu felt he was very magnanimous.
Lu Ying frowned. Ji Xiaofeng had many Lego toys and much smaller than this cost thousands. Forget it, money or no money, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like his money was spent, huh!
On the third day of the new year, again in the evening, Lu Ying received a call from the courier boy once more and retrieved a toy box, this time Optimus Prime Transformer. Lu Zaizai happily insisted on hugging the Optimus Prime robot to sleep at night. Stuck between the father and son, it made Lu Ying feel bruised.
On the fourth day of the New Year, the courier came again.
The fifth day of the New Year…
The sixth day of the new year…
The seventh and eighth day of the new year…
Lu Ying, who was already at work, exploded and grabbed the mobile phone.
“What’s wrong with you? You buy them every day and send them every day!”
“Zaizai loves it, doesn’t he?”
“What child doesn’t like toys? But I warn you, you spoil him like this and he’ll get used to it. In time it will become a habit. He will look forward to toys every day, how can he have any mind to study?”
“It won’t happen.”
“Yes, it will!”
“… ahem, don’t be angry. I don’t have much contact with him and I don’t get to see him much. What else can I do but send toys to deepen my impression?”
Lu Ying was furious: “You were a top student, don’t you know how to send something useful? Send books, right?”
“Oh! Books are good!” Enlightened, Qin Zhuopu immediately promised, “Okay, I will choose children’s books and send them to him.”
Lu Ying breathed a sigh of relief and couldn’t help but praise his son, “There’s nothing he doesn’t like about picture book stories. Zaizai loves reading very much.”
“You’ve taught him well. I’m sorry, I’ll pay attention next time.”
“It’s not like you can’t give toys, once in a while you can. I’m still busy here, I’ll hang up now.”
At home Lu Ying had a good talk with his son, explaining that he wouldn’t be able to receive cool toys every day in the future. Lu Zaizai was very disappointed at first, deflating his mouth and wanting to cry, but under Lu Ying’s rare stern glare, he sniffled and muttered, “I know I’m wrong. Uncle is very nice, don’t scold him.”
“I didn’t scold him.” Lu Ying was speechless.
“Well, then you’re still a good dad.” Lu Zaizai couldn’t help asking again, “Dad, what will you give me on my birthday?”
“A cake I make with my own hands, your favourite chocolate fruit cake.”
“Yes! Dad is amazing.”
Lu Ying stroked his hair.
Lu Zaizai asked again, “So, will Uncle come on my birthday?”
“Why would he come?”
“But I want him to come.”
Lu Ying rolled his eyes, “You just want his toys.”
Lu Zaizai was angry: “No, I don’t! I want to say thank you to Uncle in person. He has given me so many toys and I haven’t said thank you yet. Godfather gives me toys, and I always say thank you. Uncle Yang gives me delicious food and I want to thank him too. Isn’t it right?”
“…it is.” Lu Ying was helpless. When his son said that, he had nothing to refute.
But now the whole country started working and everyone had their own busy schedule, not to mention Qin Zhuopu’s big business. Lu Ying was too embarrassed to ask Qin Zhuopu to come all the way here to celebrate his son’s birthday. The 15th day of the first lunar month was the Lantern Festival; even if Qin Zhuopu was not busy, his own family would want to be reunited.
Lu Ying thought of a compromise. In the middle of the day on the 15th, he could simply make a video call to Qin Zhuopu, so that Lu Zaizai could say enough!
In a blink of an eye, it was the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Lantern Festival.
Lu Ying was working on this day and was very busy. The bakery was offering a free Lantern Festival tasting with the membership card today! The Lantern Festival dumplings created by Brother Yang had a variety of flavours; there were two per serving and there was a long line outside the store.
For a whole day, Lu Ying was busy like a dog, but fortunately, everything was sold out and he got off work at five o’clock in the afternoon.
Lu Ying carried the cake and the dumplings to the restaurant Brother Ji booked, and the group celebrated Zaizai’s sixth birthday together.
Around nine o’clock, Lu Ying carried his sleeping son home, also carrying all of the little one’s birthday gifts.
When the lift reached the floor, Lu Ying walked straight out.
“I’m back.” A figure appeared in the darkness.
Lu Ying was startled: “What are you doing here?”
“Came to celebrate Zaizai’s birthday, fortunately I didn’t miss it.” Qin Zhuopu was smiling as he carried a cake in one hand and a gift in the other. He had rushed over from Guanlan City right after work. He hadn’t dared to say he was coming over in advance to avoid missing the appointment in case of some emergency.
“Why didn’t you call?”
“I guessed you guys might be having fun. It was okay to wait a bit.”
When Lu Ying entered the apartment, Lu Zaizai suddenly woke up.
“Uncle, you’re here!” Lu Zaizai ran over in surprise.
“Happy birthday, Zaizai.”
Qin Zhuopu hugged the chubby child who flung himself at him, and all his fatigue was swept away.
Many years later, Lu Zaizai wrote a passage in his memoirs.
When I was six years old I didn’t understand anything, but I could feel love.
The uncle I was hugging seemed to be trying to love me as hard as my dad.
Lu Ying: Don’t send toys indiscriminately, send more books!
Mr. Qin: Okay, I’ll send books to Zaizai in future.
Lu Ying: Our Zaizai loves to read books the most!
Zaizai: I don’t, don’t talk nonsense!
- Very mysterious xxxx year 🙂 Since the Year of the Pig is 2019 (by the state of mobile phones we can assume it’s neither 2007 nor 2031) and Zaizai is going to be six in 2019, isn’t he born in 2013? Namely, February 24. Correct me if I’m wrong 🙂