When I was a child, there were many things I didn’t understand about adults’ interactions. One of the biggest mysteries was that they never seemed to feel comfortable receiving things from others.
When somebody came to our house with a gift, my parents would always exclaim “Oh, no, you didn’t have to!” several times before receiving it. And when they finally received it, they would do so with an apology for causing them a trouble. When we went out for a meal with somebody else, and if it so happened that they tried to pay for us, again, my parents would rebel against it, sometimes even chasing after the bill itself, trying not to cause troubles to the other party.
I always wondered why they had to make such a big fuss over gifts. Of course, one should receive the gift given to them, I thought.
In the summer when I was about nine, I was attending a summer program at the local music school with one of my childhood best friends. After the class, I was standing in front of the school building, waiting for my mother when my friend came to me with a huge watermelon in her hands.
“This is for you.”
I was surprised by this unexpected gift, but received it delightfully. She explained to me that it was a gift from her mother to my mother. Soon, my mother arrived, and I told her about the gift watermelon from my friend. As soon as she saw the watermelon, my mother got upset. She snatched the watermelon from my hands and went to return it to my friend’s mother.
“Please receive it!”
My friend’s mother said to my mother.
“Why?” asked my mother. “There’s no reason why you should give me such a precious thing!”
Neither party was willing to give up. In the end, my mother thrusted the watermelon in the hands of my friend’s mother, grabbed my hand, and we ran away from the scene.
Back in the car, my mother was furious. She in fact scolded me for receiving the watermelon in the first place.
“Why shouldn’t we receive it, Mom? It was for us!”
I felt really bad for the poor watermelon which was supposed to be a gift, but ended up being wanted by nobody.
“Where are my shopping bags?”
My mother asked as she looked around inside the car. Then she remembered.
“Oh, I left them in front of the school building! I was being too busy with the watermelon! What a trouble! Please go and fetch them for me, will you?”
So, I went back. And there they were – my mother’s shopping bags left on the floor. My friend and her mother had already left and there was no trace of the watermelon. Good grief, I thought, it wasn’t left behind at least.
As I collected my mother’s lonely shopping bags, I thought to myself how comical the whole scene was and how remarkable it was that my mother didn’t seem to be aware of the absurdity of the event.