Mummy, What is Love?
My daughter was an inquisitive girl. She loved to ask questions and hear different stories. Every night, I would sit at the dining table, reading stories to her. Sometimes, she preferred to listen to my stories instead. Other times, she would ask me, eyes bright with curiosity, whether do ants sleep, or why do leaves turn yellow or even why flowers have petals. This night, after reading her Cinderella, she asked me yet another question.
“Mummy, what is love?”
“There are all kinds of love,” I told her. “There is love between friends, love between siblings, love between families… All kinds of love. I gave my love to someone when I was eighteen. Mummy can tell you how it feels like.” Little Charlotte nodded eagerly and walked over to sit on my lap, ready for another story.
“I was a young student back then,” I began. “Days being a student were fun but stressful, and Mummy did not have a lot of time to read stories. I had to study hard for my examinations. So instead of playing and reading stories, I stayed back in school to study even after lessons ended. Mummy had few friends, few close ones, and they did not like studying in school at all. So usually, Mummy was left alone in school.
During those days, there was another boy studying alone too, somewhere near the place where I was studying. The first time I saw him, Charlotte, was the only time I took my eyes off my books to peek at something else for so long. A few days later, the boy walked over to my table and we started studying together. I was elated. And do you know, Charlotte, that every time he looked at me, my heart just goes thumpetythumpthumpetythump!
After we graduated, we would hang out together almost every day. During the times when I didn’t get to see him, I felt sad and lost, like something was missing from a part of my life. I wasn’t used to not meeting him since we had been hanging around together every day since our schooling days. He came to look for Mummy whenever he could. Months passed and we would continue our usual routine: watching movies, baking cookies or cakes … Even though we did the same thing almost every other day, I never got tired doing them. I felt like I could go on for ages, until I grow old with white air and missing teeth. But I know that this was not to happen forever, because there came the day when he had to leave for army. It broke my heart, my dear Charlotte, it really did. I could no longer see him, or even talk to him. He was sent to another island for military training. No matter how hard I tried to bake cookies on my own, they didn’t taste as nice as when he was around. Baking was no longer fun. I never wanted to bake alone every again. Every night I would lie in bed, unable to get to sleep, wondering if he was thinking about me too, somewhere on the island. I would wonder if he was asleep, if he was well and uninjured. Sometimes, I cried myself to sleep because my heart ached from not seeing him for so long. I wondered if I could ever see him again.
Less than a month after he was gone, however, he turned up on my doorstep in his army uniform a bunch of sunflowers. Mummy loved sunflowers, Charlotte, and I was so happy to have them. ‘I just came back,’ he told me, his eyes shining with tears. He did not seem to care that he was hurting all over and was tired. All he cared about was that he could see me smile and hear my voice again. Mummy was happy too, very happy, and that moment was all it needed to make up for the sadness and loss I felt ever since he left me.
While he continued serving the country, I went to university. It was harder to meet up and have fun together again. I felt sad that I had to neglect him for studies. I wished we could go back to the days when we could study together again. ‘Don’t worry,’ he would reassure me. ‘I’ll wait till you are done what you wanted to do and we could bake again.’ He would sit in my room and watch while I studied. He would prepare lunch and dinner for me when I did not feel like taking time off to eat just to finish studying as fast as possible so I could keep him company.
When Mummy had completed her studies, she went out to work. But nothing was smooth-sailing for me, Charlotte. I aspired to be a scriptwriter, but I got turned down again and again. Finally, when my work was recognized, another scriptwriter accused Mummy for having the same script. Plagiarism, was what they called it. I could no longer survive in the industry. I ended up with nothing due to my tainted reputation. I was upset. I cried and cried, but he was there the moment he heard about it, trying hard to cheer me up. For two years, Mummy worked as a sales assistant. I did not like the job at all, but he was always there to encourage me. A few years down we focused on our own work. Those years of baking and watching movies were gone, Charlotte. Those were the things young people do. Mummy was not happy at all. I was stressed, unhappy and angry most of the time.
Then one day, he suggested that we go on a holiday. We went to China and he took me on a really nice and expensive dinner on a ferris wheel. While we were at the peak, he pulled out a ring and he proposed to me. He did not care that I was angry, a lot less happy these days. All he cared about was that he wanted to make me happy. Fireworks shot up into the sky and I said yes. It was the happiest day of my life. After we got married, we opened a little bakery from whatever savings we had. Although it was hard work, but Mummy loved working with him, doing what we liked to do best. It was like returning to our youth again and I thought it was the best thing that could ever happen to me.
Two years after the bakery opened, however, he left. He met with a car accident and he never pulled through. I thought I could never survive without him, sweetie. It was like he took a part of me with him. This was not like him going to the army, because he could no longer come back again. Sometimes I would take his clothes out just to pretend I could still hug him to sleep. Sometimes, I would still call his handphone to tell him what was going on in my life, hoping he could hear me wherever he was. I wait up at night hoping to see him walk through the door and tell me he had come back for me again. But it never happened. I worked hard in the bakery because I knew he would be happy watching me continue doing something I like. I promised to keep him happy forever, no matter where he was, till the day I die. This is love, my dear Charlotte, this is love.”
“Aww… There’s no happily ever after, Mummy?” Charlotte asked, disappointed after hearing my story.
“There is, of course, a happy ending, sweetie. You see, when he left, he gave me a present I could keep forever. He gave me you.”