Chapter 17: Wedding Anniversary
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The sun was out, and the sky was clear. It was Chen Jin’s parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. A very special day. The anniversary for a marriage of 50 years was a “Golden Wedding,” so 25 years was half a Golden Wedding.
His Father, Chen Gang, had given a lot of thought to it; he took a day off to spend this extraordinary day with his wife, He Li, to do a wedding photo-shoot. When they got married 25 years ago, the economic development in the country had been pretty average; people were generally not very wealthy. It was this city, Shanghai, that had the best economy. There weren’t too many newlyweds that had the extra money to spend on a wedding photo-shoot then. At most, they would take one indoor picture.
But now, it was the new era, and life had gotten much better—all kinds of wedding photo companies were everywhere. But they were not young anymore. To make up for lost opportunity, Chen Gang suggested that they take some wedding photos to remember the good times they shared. He thought He Li would be really happy and agree with his proposal with excitement.
But surprisingly, He Li turned him down cruelly.
He Li sneered at him. “Ha, wedding pictures? If it weren’t for our son, do you think I would have stayed with you for 25 years? I’d have divorced you already. Do you actually think I still love you?”
“Honey, it’s been 25 years. How is this still on your mind? I’ve already forgotten about her. Can you just leave that behind?” Chen Gang said, seeming very awkward, with cold sweat on his forehead.
“Oh, please. Just because you’re forgetful doesn’t mean I am too. I will never forget how unfaithful you were to me!” He Li gnashed her teeth, seeming very resentful.
“Well…” Chen Gang shook his head. He had absolutely no idea He Li was still holding a grudge against him about the affair he had when he was young. They had almost gotten a divorce. Of course he knew he had crossed the line; he acknowledged the mistake, admitted that he was wrong, and had done everything in his power to be a good father and a good husband for the family. However…it’d been 25 years, and He Li still hadn’t forgiven him for what he had done. She took away her love for him and gave it all to their son.
Listening to the way she talked to him, and seeing how indifferent she was about the wedding pictures, Chen Gang’s heart sank to his stomach. “Honey, so…we’re not going to do the photo-shoot then? I’ve already paid $1,200 for the down payment,” Chen Gang said in a quiet voice. At first, he thought He Li would love the surprise, but now, he was more worried if he could get his deposit back.
“Of course we are. But it’ll be just me and my son. You’ll just stand there and watch.” As a woman, why wouldn’t she want to take wedding photos? She was just mad at a certain person and didn’t want to be in the pictures with him.
“Ok, sure, sure.” Chen Gang’s face started to beam with delight, and he hurried to make some arrangements.
The morning of the 28th.
At the photo-shoot site at the Bund in Pudong, the site was by the beach; everything was very scenic. There was the ocean, the beach, even a private yacht. The Chen family had come here for the photo-shoot. With the help of the makeup artist, He Li had her makeup done and put on a white wedding dress. Her hands were on the sides of the dress, with the hemline so long that it touched the ground.
“Wow, Mom. You are beautiful. The most beautiful mother in the world.” Chen Jin, who had now changed into his well-pressed suit, gave his mother the compliments she deserved, looking very smart and happy.
In fact, He Li had turned 50 this year. Even with all the efforts she’d put in to take care of her skin, she still looked like she was in her 40s. Her figure had turned saggy and floppy; her skin was dull with wrinkles and crow’s feet around her eyes. But what was the most attractive about her was her maturity and intellectuality; they made her extremely approachable, but with a distance, as if she kept a dignified silence. And it was that kind of unique elegance that made He Li – a woman that had average looks – so appealing.
As Chen Jin called it, “a Queen.” This kind of charisma was also the result of having worked at the Tax Bureau for over 10 years.
After being dolled up by the makeup artist, his mother now looked like she was back in her 30s, even 20s; very beautiful, indeed.
“Look at you, cheeky monkey, you know the right words to say to make me happy.” She pointed at his head and couldn’t stop smiling. It always made her happy whenever Chen Jin tried to butter her up.
“Mom, I’m telling you the truth. If I ever find a wife, she must be like you. If I can’t find anyone like you, then I’ll stay single forever,” Chen Jin said, looking all innocent. He just buttered her up again.
“Like me? Sure, I’ll set you up on a blind date tomorrow.” He Li smiled.
“Let’s do it. But only if she’s just like you.”
“Three, two, one… Done!”
The photographer used his SLR camera to take several sets of pictures from various angles of the family as he squatted down. All of which included pictures of just He Li and Chen Gang.
But it was just a few; soon after they took their pictures, He Li pushed him aside and asked Chen Jin to join her. “Go away! I want to take more photos with my son.”
And just like that, Chen Jin listened to his Mom, changed into some more suits, and took 10 more sets of pictures, as his Dad, Chen Gang, watched and joined them once in a while for family photos.
Being exhausted from the photoshoot, Chen Jin looked at his Dad, who was standing not too far away, and said, “Mom, why don’t you take some more with Dad? Today is about the two of you.”
He Li suddenly looked all disgusted as she held onto his arm and forced her smile at the camera. “Your Dad is old and ugly. He’ll make me look bad. I’m not taking pictures with him.”
Chen Jin gave a wry grin. “Mom, Dad is really good-looking. You two look very cute together.”
“Tell him to get lost. My son is the most handsome guy in the whole universe. I’m not taking pictures with him!” He Li said, as she looked at her young son from the side; realizing he somehow looked like her husband when he was young, she couldn’t help but lay her head on his shoulder.
“Fine~” Chen Jin didn’t know what to say. The truth was, the young Chen Gang, his Dad, was way more good-looking than he was. Even at the age of 50, he was still the more handsome one among the middle-aged men. He didn’t look so bad at all after some clean-up and putting his suit on.
Chen Jin himself, on the other hand, got the “not-so-pretty” genes from his Mom. His hand was so sore from holding his Mom’s hand for a long time, but she wouldn’t let go.
After the photo-shoot, later that evening, Chen Gang did some grocery shopping and, with some help form Chen Jin, made a table full of delicious food for the family. After dinner, Chen Jin took out the “presents” that he’d prepared.
“Mom, this is for you. I hope you like it.” Chen Jin handed his Mom an exquisite box wrapped with silk and said, “Mom, why don’t you open it?”
Then, he reached into the pocket on his shirt and casually took something out of it. “Dad, this is for you.”
“Oh my! It’s gorgeous!” He Li screamed with excitement, and her eyes glowed as she opened the box. She took out the pearl necklace carefully and put it around her neck. “Son, how much did it cost you? Where did you buy it?” He Li asked after she took a look at herself in the mirror.
“Do you like it, Mom?” Chen Jin smiled.
“I love it. I really do.” He Li couldn’t keep her hands off the pearls. “Son, it must have cost you a fortune,” she said, looking up from the necklace.
“It wasn’t much. I’m glad you like it, Mom.”
“Honey, the necklace looks great on you,” Chen Gang said, as he looked at her with admiration. With the pearl necklace, he thought his wife looked more graceful and splendid than ever.
Then, with great anticipation, he looked at the gift his son gave him – a watch.
It can’t be worse than my wife’s pearl necklace, can it? Chen Gang thought as he looked at the watch in his hands very closely. The watch seemed pretty average; nothing special with the design. It was made with solid materials – the back case was made of carbon fiber, with a tungsten-alloy-made watch band. Perhaps this is a brand-name watch from Cartier, Rolex, or Armani? Chen Gang’s attention had now moved on to the back of the watch. He then saw four letters – “WIKA.” What is this brand? WIKA? I have never heard of this brand.
Suddenly, a guess flashed through his mind. It’s a “knockoff.” A domestic knockoff? No packaging, weird brand name, exceptional workmanship but nothing unique about it. If it’s not a knockoff, what is it?
Chen Gang glanced at his son next to him. Then he looked at his wife, whose face was glowing with happiness.
“What’s up with this unfair treatment?” he said in a low voice, forcing a smile.
She’s his mother; I’m his father. Is that really necessary?
But he did not say anything to Chen Jin; instead, he accepted the gift in a dignified manner, and said, “Very well. I really like this watch.”
Ever since Chen Jin was a boy, he had hardly ever given his father any gift. So even if this was some cheap knockoff, Chen Gang still cherished it very much, because his son had, after all, made an effort to find a gift for him.