I'm not sure it's a Wednesday afternoon, but most likely it was. Because usually that's the day I would have a lighter workload and get off early to wait for you after school. Although, being self-employed, lighter workload means less income - but that's not what this post is about.
As usual the school entrance was crowded with parents when I arrived. Most were huddled in groups of two or three chatting away; some preferred to wait at the opposite hawker stalls having a drink; some, like me, who didn't meet any acquaintances would stand alone in the crowd and look pensive, while trying to eavesdrop on some interesting conversations. We were all under the shade away from the evening sun, of course. Was it overcast that day? I'm not sure - but that's not what this post is about.
The school bell rang. A bunch of schoolboys in white shirts and dark blue shorts started to trickle out through the gate. Almost everyone came out like they went into the school earlier - neat and tidy, NOT! - especially you and your other 7-years old friends at Primary One. If there's not a stain on your face, it'll be on your hands; if it's not on your hands, it'll be on your white shirt. For some reason your knees were always dirty. You told me that was because you have to kneel when you couldn't find a seat during recess (or was it school assembly?) - but that's not what this post is about.
I have always enjoyed spotting your dirty face and uncombed hair amongst all the happy faces streaming out from the school. It's a happy feeling to watch your wondering face blossoming into a smile when our eyes meet - it's the kind of happiness when we stumble upon a long lost love after a hundred years apart, even though I had just bid goodbye to you in the morning. I hope, you're just as happy to spot my face amongst the neck-stretched, head swinging and eyes scanning adults - but that's not what this post is about.
As usual, the first thing we did was to enlighten your load. Heavy school bags were always a complaint amongst the parents. I hope those weight would not hinder your growth, although, looking at your other 7-years old friends, you weren't exactly short or small for your age. When we crossed the road, I stretched out my hand. You held it. I felt happy - a fuzzy-warm kind of happy. I had started to cherish these special moments. Lately, as you grow older, at times, I have to resort to commanding to hold your hand. When you were younger, no matter what the situation, you automatically holding onto my out-stretched hand was as natural as our heartbeats - but that's not ... well, you know.
As we walked towards the car, I asked you to walk in front of me. You had always liked to walk behind me. With news about children being kidnapped never stop circulating, I could never be too careful with you. Although, you following my footsteps was something that once made me very happy - a being-idolised kind of happy. For the record, when you were younger, you adored me (Yes, adore! To a certain degree, at 7-years-old, you still do). You had said that when you grow up, you wanted to do what I do as a career. Of course, not long after that, your ambition changed to a teacher, and then a scientist - but that's not what this post is about.
This post is about an image of you that was imprinted onto my mind a few minutes later that day. That image has been bringing happy, very happy smiles onto my face until today, several weeks after. And hopefully when I revisit this post in the future, I can conjure up the same image and bring back the same smile.
I think you were especially happy that day because some companies had sponsored soft drinks and snacks to the school for Children's Day, even though the school had celebrated it in the week before. There were extra bounces in your steps that day. As we approached the car walking on the corridor of an old two storey shop, your gait changed.
Instead of putting your right foot down after you had stepped on your left, you hopped once on your left foot. You then put down your right foot. Left foot out, hopped once on your left, and right foot out. Yes, you were skipping on your left foot. And your hair bobbed freely with every bounce. I'm very sure it was your left foot. I'm not sure why you didn't skip on both legs. I'm also not very sure whether that was the first time I saw you skip, one leg or two. But watching you skipped in your slightly over-sized school uniform of not-so-white shirt and dark blue short, pulled slightly above your waistline, I was suddenly overwhelmed. Unexpectedly.
I think I was almost in tears.
Perhaps it was the way you embrace life at that moment, or perhaps it was simply the cuteness of your skipping, my heart suddenly flooded with happiness by what I saw. I'm not sure I can put my feeling of happiness then into words. I'm not sure words can describe something so inexplicably wonderful. But if I was to pinpoint that happiness in its extensive spectrum, I think it was contentment.
And - because of the old man who sold chee-cheong-fun on a mobile stall - pride too.
The old man had been peddling his food by that road for the past few weeks. He noticed you skipping. I noticed him smiling while watching your skipping. Although with those skips, you didn't achieve anything to any degree in academic terms, or artistic terms, or physical terms, at that moment, when I saw you skipping, I was happy, very happy to proclaim -
"My boy! Yeah, that's my boy!"
Simply because I'm your father.