Woke up to the surprisingly chill morning air. Reached for my phone. Oh, 6°C, no wonder. I walked over to the radiator and turned it on. Time for my yoga session.
While exhaling and inhaling, my mind started wandering (That’s why I don’t meditate. Haha ~). How blessed we are to live such an abundant life. I can’t imagine what sleeping rough is like, and my heart goes to those less-fortunate fellow earthlings.
This reminds me of how I’ve been criticised for my seemingly eternally cheerful attitude towards life by some, particularly those whiners — ‘Of course, you can. You have such a good life!’ In short, I’m accused of being a positive thinker. Mm, actually, I’m more of a doer than a thinker, really.
I don’t understand why people are always assuming. Maybe this is one way to comfort themselves for not owning their weaknesses and responsibility? Don’t they think that so-called ‘good-life people’ (such as us *duh*~) actually work hard to earn it? And the truth is, I count my blessings. I choose to count my blessings instead of whining.
Blessings are everywhere, big and small. The question is: Do you see it? Or rather, do you acknowledge it?
Our Black Friday incident serves as one of the best examples.
13 September, 2013. By the time we finally came out from the custom, it was 8:40pm. Unusual, because Chris, our reliable chauffeur, didn’t show up!
I looked around but there wasn’t a familiar face in sight. It could be the traffic as there was pissing rain that night. Or maybe he’s gone to the bathroom.
Okay. A text message went out to him, ‘Hi-hiyee are you there?’
A response came promptly, ‘Hi, I’m here. Hmmm and what happens next?????’
I looked around again, baffled. ‘You are? We’re under the meeting point sign in front of the Tourist Services.’
‘Are you at Heathrow — ’cause you’re not due until tomorrow???’
I gasped, ‘Er… Yuh. Today.’
How odd! Chris is the most professional driver I’ve ever known, so this is not supposed to happen at all. But then again, Boey is the one who reconfirmed the booking with him, not me, meaning I don’t really know what’s in their dialogue. So who knows? Maybe it IS our fault.
Right after I pressed ‘Send’, Chris called. He was willing to set off immediately if I’d like. Just that we had to wait. At first, I thought of just hiring a cab directly from the airport. But then, I don’t drive, so I wouldn’t know how to give directions. Furthermore, there aren’t many lampposts here, even on the motorway. The lights are mainly at the exits and roundabouts.
Heck. Just wait loh. It’s safe at the airport and at least I know I can count on Chris who’s actually a friend as well. He’s the one who took Maisie from Spain to England for us.
Just as I hung up, looking at the time & date on my phone screen, something clicked: 13 September, 2013.
For the past five whole weeks in Asia, this number ’13’ had been showing up repeatedly. Sometimes, number 20 came along as well. Usually, it was the table we dined at at a restaurant. Boey and I reckoned that it must be some lucky number and started having all sorts of billionaire fantasies, ‘We’re gonna be rich this year!!’
But the thing is, we don’t know how to buy a lottery ticket, nor do we know how to do horse racing betting. In the end, we just let go of the crazy thought, knowing too well that we’re the type who just have to work hard and save hard.
Now it finally dawned on me that it’s been God’s gentle reminder of our correct arrival time — 8pm (a.k.a.20:00), 13th.
OH ~ MY ~ SWEET ~ GOD ~~~
Around a week before our departure date, I realised I put down the flight details on the 14th in my diary which left me absolutely puzzled. Because all the way, when we talked about the trip, it was the 13th. This realisation alerted me and I thought to myself that I must check with Chris. However, later on when Boey did so with Chris via Viber, he intriguingly used the 14th as well though he was the one who pointed out the mistake in my diary. Moreover, I made the booking according to the details in my diary… So, no, it’s not Chris’ fault at all.
Annoyed with myself. I didn’t pay much attention to the itinerary this time as Boey is the one who made the bookings with his redeemed points. We could’ve avoided this mess if I were a little bit more careful.
Never mind. Now we know!
To kill time, I bought some sandwich and salad from the cafe as I’m forever on a see-food diet; my Kindle was in the check-in luggage so I read news on my mobile phone instead.
Suddenly, this headline popped into my eyes: Black Friday, Faye Wong to divorce.
Eh? So… it’s Black Friday today???
OH ~ MY ~ SWEET ~ GOD ~~~
What is wrong with me??? I knew it’s the 13th, and I knew it’s a Friday. BUT!!! This combination never came to my mind at all… Dyscalculia? Dyslexia? Early Onset Dementia? Oh well, life goes on.
Beam sighed, ‘I’m beat. I wish I could sprawl out on the floor right now.’
Feeling guilty, ‘Yup. That’d be nice eh? But think about how lucky we are. It’s safe and warm in here. And we have Chris. Do you remember that miserable rainy night in Beijing?’
Beam nodded, with yet another sigh.
That was more than five years ago. We were living in HK for six months then. Before we set off, Boey had been bombarded with information on how cunning Mainlanders would be by his HK colleagues. So, he was determined to choose the airport bus which he found online over a cab.
‘It goes to our hotel! Er… actually, no. But it goes to that road!’, he announced happily.
I frankly was not comfortable with the thought. He had no idea how big Beijing is and how long that road can be. If you ask me, I would say that 2008 is the Olympic Year and they’d been working very hard for it in almost every way. Apart from this, every time I visited Mainland, it astounded me with its rapid development. I’m sure if we get a licensed cab, there’d be no problem. After all, cheaters are everywhere, not just in China. If it’s about money… well, we’ve been very careful with our money every day, so why not indulge ourselves just once? It’s a holiday for God’s sake. Besides, shouldn’t we put Beam, our 4-year-old sweetheart, into consideration when we plan the trip?
Yes, I’m the one who visited different places in Mainland more than once before. But, for a very long time, my opinions were never really appreciated or respected. In short, I have no say because he’s the bread winner. Guess that’s the sad story of many other stay-at-home mums as well. When so many assumed that I must be the one in charge (which he happily played along most of the time) because of my stern look, what they didn’t know is that I was the submissive one in our marriage.
When we boarded the bus, it started drizzling. Boey was too thrilled to be bothered, staring at all the fancy cars zoomed past us on the motorway.
‘Chinese are damn rich!’ he proclaimed.
I remained silent. I was worried if the drizzle would have become something else by the time we reached our destination. We never like the idea of carrying an umbrella, not even when we travel overseas. Now this might be a problem.
Just our luck — It began pouring as soon as we started walking. A middle-aged lady cycled past us and slipped on a puddle. I went over to help her get back up.
There was no shelter along the way, meaning we literally walked in the rain.
At first, Beam was excited, ‘It’s so fun!’ But very soon, her bubbly chattering stopped. She just tugged her tiny paw in my hand and walked quietly beside me, with her head lowered in case the rain got in her eyes. Every now and then when I checked on her, ‘Are you okay?’ She looked up at me and nodded with her trademark sweet smile, ‘Just a bit cold.’
At the traffic lights, I turned and saw the rain trickling down her hoodie. Her angelic tiny face was soaked. I felt so terrible inside. What a useless mother!!
Boey finally admitted that taking a cab is probably a good idea. Unfortunately, very bad timing. It was the peak hour, plus in the rain. Now that he was aware of the mistake, he tried to avoid any eye contact with me due to the guilty feeling. I ignored him too, because it boiled my blood frankly, for not standing up to him. I cursed and swore as we walked along.
It felt like eternity. Our hands became so numb from the freezing temperature.
All of a sudden, it dawned on me — Why didn’t I pray? Why did I allow the negative emotions to take over?? What kind of a Christian is that?! Bloody hell…
I started praying silently as we walked on. Please, God, guide us to our hotel and give us a happy ending for the night. PLEASE!!!
Finished. I casually looked up and… Lo and behold!! There stands the neon sign of our hotel, gleaming in the rain. We are here!!
Thank you, God!!! Praise my Lord!!!
As we entered the hall, all the eyes fell on these three drenched creatures. I overheard some whispering, ‘Aww… Poor little girl…’ So embarrassing ~~ And the giant thermometer shows that it is 2°C tonight. No wonder…
We ended up walking for almost one whole hour in the rain and the laundry cost us RMB400+, because water got in both of our bags and soaked our clothes. The irony… But luckily, Beam didn’t fall ill. Throughout the 8-day journey, she remained her chirpy, bubbly self.
I digress. Back to Heathrow on 13 September, 2013.
After two-plus hours, Chris finally showed up. Upon his appearance, Beam and I were so exhausted that we suddenly burst out laughing like two mad deflated zombie balloons (filled with laughing gas, must be). So tired, so tired… Hahaha… All your fault, all your fault… Hahaha… I know, I know… Hahaha… Sorry, sorry… Hahaha…
By the time we reached home (in the pissing rain), it was half past two.
Beam looked at me and declared, ‘I’m not taking a shower tonight. I’m going straight to bed.’
In this house, she can do whatever she wants to long as it doesn’t affect others who are involved. For quite a while, she’s been sleeping with me, instead of in her own room, and so a shower before sleep is my requirement. Shower or bath before sleep is like a ritual for myself. My bed is sacred. So, no shower, no Mama bed!
However, the five weeks in Asia has really worn me out frankly. And this Black Friday incident certainly didn’t help at all…… To hell with the ritual!!
In the end, the two zombies didn’t even wash their faces or brush their teeth. They just charged straight upstairs to the room! To lovely Mama bed!
When I woke up again, it was around noon.
As I entered the kitchen, the first things sank into my eyes were a big bouquet of fresh flowers, a ‘Welcome Home’ card, and a fresh loaf of bread. A gentle reminder in the card: ‘There is milk in the fridge.’
It’s Pat and Stephen.
Aww… I almost cried in the fullness of sheer joy. Such a grand gesture of kindness!
Pat actually rang Chris a few days before to confirm our arrival time. And of course, she got the wrong information. She was shocked to see our scattered bags that morning she came in to collect the mail and newspaper.
She had been looking after my house when I was away. I only asked her to come and open the windows to ventilate the house a bit once in a while. But of course, she’s done far more than just that, as usual. My garden is so tidy and ready for the rest of the year, thanks to her.
John, my lovely neighbour on my left (Pat is on the right), has been taking care of my garden as well. He’s the one who mows the lawn and weeds. He has to drag his mower and go around our house (Pat’s and mine are semi-detached, so are connected directly, but not John’s) to enter my garden. Before we set off to Asia, he kept telling me, ‘Remember to share pictures with us. You have a good time and make sure you come back, okay? You come back! And don’t worry about your garden. We’ll take care of it!’
When I told Mum about it on the phone later on, she was almost choked with emotions, just like me. ‘Praise the Lord! You’re so well taken care of by all the beautiful people there. I shall not worry anymore about you and Beam living in the foreign town alone.’
‘There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.’
~ 《The Pickwick Papers》 by Charles Dickens
These beautiful people are certainly the lights.
It’s not always that easy to stay cheerful and keep the faith in such a chaotic world. But I always try my best focusing on the lights and on being one as well, because it’s the only way to live on.
Thank you, God, my faithful God, for the lights!!
剛送出回覆，克理斯來電，如果我們願意，他可以馬上出發，只是我們要等一等。原本想，那麼晚就不要麻煩人家了，直接從機場叫計程車；但再想想，我自己不開車，所以也不認得路（更別提夜裡黑咪摸什麼都看不到 — 這裡即使是高速公路，也沒有什麼路燈，主要在交流道附近才有，何況我們那兒算是比較鄉下，沒有經驗的人很難開車），要怎麼跟司機說？等就等吧，反正在機場沒有安全顧慮，而且熟悉的司機（我們其實還有朋友關係，逃家貓咪梅喜喜就是他帶給我們的）還是讓人安心。
電話剛掛掉，看著手機螢幕上的日期，我突然像毫無防備被潑了一桶冰水般的清醒過來：１３ September, ２０１３.
現在，謎底終於揭曉了：那其實都是 上帝給我們的警示 — １３日夜間八點（２０：００）抵達希斯洛。
大約離境一個星期前，我發現日誌上怎麼寫的是１４日抵達希斯洛，我還在納悶，因為我們每次談到回程，說的都是１３日，太怪了，那得跟克理斯再確認比較保險。結果，稍後熊貓跟克理斯用 Viber 通訊時，竟然說的也是１４日（可是，是熊貓跟我說我日誌寫錯了！），加之我當初預約的時候，就是依著日誌資料，所以錯完全不在克理斯。
算了。等待當兒，去買了三明治還有沙拉，享受美食真是人生一大享受。吃乾抹淨後，因為 Kindle 丟在寄艙行李箱裡（沒料到有這樣的意外），我不喜歡在公眾場合開箱，就用手機上網看新聞殺時間。
祈禱完畢，無意抬頭看了一下，什麼？？？！！！台灣飯店亮晶晶的大招牌，在雨中眨巴閃爍著，原來我們已經走到這裡了！感謝 神！！讚美 神！！
~ 狄更斯 《匹克威克外傳》