It has been a while since I have gone out to meet friends and I was looking forward to this dinner party. I even put makeup on – your not so subtle winged eyeliner and bright red lipstick to go with the navy blue silk dress with circular ruffles in folds that resembled petals of a flower in front. I used a curling iron to set my antique rose brown coloured hair in wavy curls that rested loosely over my back and donned strings of pearls over my bosom. It was time and I want to paint the town red in matching fabric heels in blue silk.
The doors of the passenger lift opened and the people in it parted to each side to let me in. As I was bowing and saying thank you, my hand brushed lightly against the hands of a little boy who was staring up at me anxiously. He looked about two and almost three feet tall. He was cradling a big parcel in his arms across his chest. I looked upon him and he stepped back, shaking his head at the same time. He looked up, and he hardly blinked at all. Obviously he became anxious because a stranger’s hand touched his and he became wary of the closeness.
“Oh, I am sorry. Did I come too close?” I said with a smile.
His parents tried to encourage him to say no, but he candidly nodded.
I stepped back to keep some space between the little guy and me.
“Say hello to the pretty lady,” urged his mother.
He continued to look up and shook his head.
Great. Either I am not pretty or I am not a lady.
I smiled and said it was alright – that he did not want to say hello.
“Greet her. Say s…i…s..T…E…R,” urged his father.
His big round eyes rolled and turned to look at his father and then at me. Then he shook his head again.
Oh great. Either I am too young to be his sister or too darn old to be called ‘sister’. What have I ever done to this kid?
(‘sister’ means a girl or a female sibling in Chinese)
“I am sorry, he has just started to talk and is a bit bashful,” explained his embarrassed mother.
“Come on. Tell her what your name is. You can say that, dear. You have just said that a little while ago,” urged his mother again.
“What is your name?” I asked with the broadest smile I could manage.
“Alf…,” uttered the boy, still very cautiously clutching the parcel.
“Al?” I said.
“Alfa…” uttered the boy who was looking at me firmly and shaking his head at the same time.
“Alvin? That’s a good boy,” I tried while hoping that his parents would let both of us go.
“Say your name to the lady,” pleaded his parents in synchrony.
“He can say his name,” insisted his mother, hands in fists in earnest.
“Al…fa…fa…,” uttered the boy once more.
“Oh, quite unique and a good name,” the hasty compliment blurted out of my lips and I was hoping that it would finally get the two of us off the hook.
Wait. Alfalfa? Who would name a kid after greenish sprouts for salads?
“Alfafa,” repeated the boy, nodding and pointing to himself.
“Oh dear. I am sorry. He meant his pet rabbit,” explained his mother. “Oh, silly dear, your name cannot not be ‘alfalfa’. Now the lady is going to think we named you after a salad green!” cried his mother.
She might as well have read my mind. But the boy was still pointing to himself as he repeated the name ‘Alfalfa”.
“He meant the alfalfa is for Alfalfa,” explained his father.
I would have guessed by now. I am not dumb. He has his bunny’s alfalfa hay dinner in the parcel. So he thought I was going to snatch Alfalfa’s dinner from him all this time. Why on earth would I take alfalfa from a little boy by force? What was he thinking?
“Alfalfa…,” I repeated.
I was dazed in the midst of the embarrassment of hastily complimenting the couple on their vegetable of a choice of name for their son. I did not notice that the boy had actually pushed the parcel against the big appliqué flower on the skirt of my dress and tugged on one of the strings of pearls I was wearing that reached halfway down my chest.
“Alfafa,” uttered the boy.
This one I get. Exchange big parcel of alfalfa for pearls – for Alfalfa?
“Keep alfalfa, Alfalfa hungry. This, no toy for bunny, ” I replied.
The doors finally opened. We have reached the ground floor. As I stepped out, the mother dragged the boy quickly past me and the father slipped out sideways. The boy was still calling the name ‘alfalfa’ as they hurried away.
Where could they be going with the alfalfa? Alfalfa not home?
So what is his name?