Chasing after baked sweet potatoes

One autumn when I was about ten years old, I was visiting my grandmother’s house with my mother. My uncle and his wife (whom I call my aunt in this story) also lived in the same house, and even though they were usually very busy and I didn’t get to spend too much time with them, I always cherished whatever interactions we got to have during my stay.

One day, my aunt had a little free time to spare, and I asked her to please listen to my piano which I had recently practiced a lot for a public performance. My mother, my aunt and I went to the room where my mother’s ancient upright piano stood half-forgotten. The room was cold, so, we turned on a stove as I prepared for my small performance.

I remember I played two different pieces that day. After I finished, I took a bow, and we all sat around the stove quietly enjoying the afterglow of the music.

Then suddenly, there was a footstep and the door opened. My grandmother came in with a big bag, very excited. As soon as she sat next to us, she started to talk.

“I’ve just seen the baked potato vendor* passing by,” my grandmother said breathlessly. “I called him to stop, but he didn’t, so I chased after him running!”

Her face was glowing with excitement like a young girl.

“Oh, I ran for quite a while before the vendor finally noticed me and stopped! I got these for you, have them!”

Baked sweet potatoes were one of my favourite food, but I rarely got to eat them at home since neither of my parents was particularly keen on them. I immediately grabbed one from the bag. My grandmother offered the sweet potatoes to my mother and my aunt as well, but they were not so interested and didn’t take one. Their faces seemed to ask “Why baked sweet potatoes? Why now?”

My mother and my aunt told my grandmother that I had just played the piano and that they had enjoyed it greatly. Even though my grandmother was also an eager listener of my piano, in that particular moment, she was more interested in the baked sweet potatoes, and the conversation steered away from the topic. After a while, my mother and my aunt remembered a task to do, and left the room. My grandmother and I stayed a little longer in the room munching on the sweet potatoes just by ourselves.

I felt a mixture of disappointment and excitement that day. Part of me wished we had enjoyed the afterglow of the music a little longer. And the other part of me was thrilled to hear my grandmother’s adventurous story of chasing after the baked sweet potato vendor. Because of this funny emotional contrast, the memory of that day has stayed with me.