One sunny day, the business was pretty slow at my flower shop. I had been waiting for customers for hours and I almost dozed off when suddenly someone came into the shop.
“Aunty, I want to pre-order a lot of flowers.” A young voice pulled me back from my half-sleepy state, drawing my eyes to a thin little boy who was standing beside me. His face was pale but he had a big smile on his face. His big, round eyes blinked at me.
He was so cute!
“Could I pre-order 60 years’ worth of flower bouquets?” He raised his head and asked me. After hearing his words, I nearly burst with laughter as I had never heard of anyone who wants to pre-order flowers for 60 years. “I want to pre-order a bunch of flower bouquets, mainly carnations for the next 60 years to be delivered on September 22nd. Is it possible?”. He smiled after he asked me.
“I want to give these flowers as a birthday present to my mother and September 22nd is her birthday. My mother is 40 years old now and she may live until 100 years of age, so I would like to pre-order 60 years worth of flowers. After that, you need to help me deliver a bouquet of fresh carnations to my mother on every September 22nd. This would make my mother feel happy and blessed.” The little boy told me in just one breath. Such a pure child!
But, how could I keep my florist business running for 60 years?
Out of curiosity, I asked him why. “Why do you want to pre-order 60 years of flowers? My florist might not be opened for that long! Could you come and book once every year?”
“No, I couldn’t. I need to pre-order 60 years of flowers. If your florist closed down, please get another florist to continue to send these flowers.” The boy answered thoughtfully.
“Please tell me the total cost of the flowers.” The boy said with a serious tone.
I was afraid that this child was pulling a prank on me. This was a pre-order of 60-years worth of flowers. Children are always playful, aren’t they?
I replied after thinking carefully, “Let me think….Ok, the total cost would be $30 dollars. How far is your home from my florist?”
“It’s very close by, my home is just opposite the road. Here is a $100 bill. 60 years is a long time and who knows when inflation hits, the price of flowers will increase.” As he spoke, the boy pulled out a $100 dollar bill from his pocket. I was surprised by the way he spoke.
His might be eleven or twelve years old but he spoke like an adult!
The boy then gave me the $100 bill and wrote down his address on a piece of paper. “This is my address. Please remember to deliver the flowers to my home.” He handed the paper with his crooked handwriting on it. “You need to tell me your mother’s name”, I said to him.
He nodded his little head, smiled and replied, “My mother’s name is very nice. Her name is Catherine and I am Toby.”
While I was taking note of his mother’s name, the boy said, “Right, it is July now and my mother’s birthday is in two months time. Please remember to deliver a bouquet of carnations to my home.”
“Thank you aunty! Remember to deliver them this year, next year, the coming year until the 60th year!” Toby said in his tiny, cute voice. As he walked out of my shop, I thought to myself, what a cute boy he is!
The next day, Little Toby came again to remind me. “Don’t forget to deliver my mother a bouquet of flowers on September 22nd”. I smiled and replied, “Don’t worry, I will not forget.”,
“When you deliver the flowers, could you please wish my mother ‘Happy Birthday’?” He asked me.
I slowly grabbed his small hands and told him: “Aunty promise you.”
I had to assure him that I would remember to send the flowers to his mother quite a few times before he made his way out of the shop.
As he walked out, I noticed a big smile on his face.
The third day, Toby came again to my shop. There was a big art block on his back and his small hands were full with a big stationary box. “Aunty, could I draw a portrait of you?”.
I was surprised and confused by his request. Toby may have noticed my puzzled face as he further said “Aunty, thank you for promising to deliver flowers to my mother. I cannot give you anything in return but I could draw a portrait of you and give it to you as a present. I have been drawing for the past six years and it would be a very beautiful portrait.” Little Toby looked at me eagerly while waiting for my answer.
I looked at my watch. I’ve got spare time as it was not a busy time at the shop at that moment. Even though it was quite an odd request, I said yes to Toby. I sat down comfortably for Toby to draw my portrait.
Despite of his tender age, Toby was very good at drawing and it only took 30 minutes for him to finish drawing my portrait. I took it and had a look at it. “Wow! It looks just like me!” I said in utter surprise. Satisfied with my reply, Little Toby walked away with a big smile on his face. He reminded me again not to forget our deal.
On the fourth day, I expected Little Toby to come by like he had for the past three days but he never came on that day. I was curious and felt a bit disappointed. “Maybe Little Toby is busy today and he will drop by tomorrow.”
However, to my disappointment, little Toby no longer came to my shop. Deep in my heart, I felt sad as I had expected for him to come to my shop. I always looked outside of my shop, trying to spot for Little Toby’s figure.
But Little Toby never came.
I waited patiently for September 22nd to come. As promised, I would prepare a bouquet of fresh and beautiful carnations and personally deliver the flowers to Little Toby’s home. I wanted to tell his mother that she had a very cute and thoughtful child.
On September 22nd, I carefully picked a few fresh and beautiful carnations and arranged them into a bouquet. I memorized Little Toby’s address. His house was just around the corner; a small apartment, unit 2 level 4 room 402.
While walking down the street, I thought Little Toby would be very happy to see me bringing a bouquet of beautiful flowers. His mother must be happier to get this present. Maybe Little Toby is waiting for my arrival!
I pressed the doorbell and a haggard-looking middle-aged lady opened the door.
”Are you Ms. Catherine?” I asked her. She nodded her head.
“This bouquet of flowers was pre-ordered by your son and I wish you a Happy Birthday.”
“Did you just say that it was my son? Are you sure this is from my son?” She was surprised.
“Two months ago, a boy named Toby came by my shop and pre-ordered this bouquet of flowers. He said they were for his mother’s birthday.” I explained.
She did not utter a word but I could see tears welling up in the corner of her eyes. Are those tears of joy and excitement? I hoped it was.
She wiped her tears off and invited me to enter her home. As she poured me a cup of water she said, “Thank you, I did not think Toby would spend his money to buy me flowers.”
“Yes, he did. He pre-ordered 60 years’ worth of flowers from me to be delivered to you on your birthday every year. Isn’t he cute?”
“What? 60 years? I understand now…” Her hands started to tremble as she replied. It was very clear to me that my words gave her a shock.
“Your son is very cute. He even drew a portrait of me and gave it to me as a present.”
“Yes, he is very cute…….my son……but….” She could not finish her sentence and started to cry. I felt confused.
What happened to Little Toby?
“Toby… he was suffering from leukemia. I have tried my best searching for the best doctor and the best treatment for him but it was all for nothing. He must have realized that he was going to die soon so he got the flowers for me. Three years ago, he gave me a bouquet of carnations on my birthday. I felt like I was the happiest mother in the world. I did tell him that it was a blessing to get flowers from him. He then told me he would get me a bouquet of flowers every year. He even made a promise with me. Oh, my son, my poor, unlucky child….”
I could feel my tears welling in my eyes as I listened to her story.
I did not know how to say goodbye to Toby’s mother after that. I even forgot my way back to my shop. My head was full of Toby’s image; a small skinny boy with a beaming smile on his face….
I did not know if I could open my florist shop for the next 60 years but I promised to myself that as long as I am alive, I would do as I had promised to Toby; to deliver a bouquet of carnations every year on September the 22nd to his mother. I prayed to God that Little Toby’s wish would come true.