This is not how it happened; it was starkly different.
Velvety green evening, luminous white damask tablecloth spread on the dark grass. This summer evening is a little cool, children run and laugh as they ferry chilled plates of salad and cold sliced meats out of the bright kitchen door. In the warm light spilling over the back steps, sits an Esky (cooler) full of ice and beer for the adults.
The heaped plates of food magically quiet the children’s excited yelps. Everybody’s sitting and laying on the grass, nibbling and munching, murmuring to each other. The stifled giggle of a child.
She offers her glass to be filled; even in the gathering dusk her eyes shine with happiness.
The men roll the old upright piano out to the verandah…
He had been searching for work for weeks, and the food in the pantry was almost gone. She was limiting how much she ate, so he and the children had meals.
One soft summer evening (she had kept the children busy and active all afternoon while they waited for him to come home),…. He slowly walked to his wife, and with downcast eyes, wordlessly showed her, his empty pockets.
She hugged him tight and whispered gently, “A picnic….” Together they gathered the old patchy sheet, the best plates and glasses, the Wedding Gift cutlery set. The only food left in the fridge was a lettuce, tomatoes, half a loaf of bread, and an onion.
The children were excited to have a picnic in their own backyard. They quickly ran to spread the sheet in the warm dusky night, placing the tableware with great care, pouring the water glasses. Scolding each other with giggles, to be careful.
Their parents briefly stand in the bright light of the kitchen doorway, watching the kids gleefully prepare the picnic banquet.
Slowly they walk down the yard. She has the baby wrapped against the evening air, and he carries the one large platter with the lettuce, chopped tomatoes and sliced onions as if it’s a gourmet dish fit for a royal family. The bread dangles from his hand, in its paper bag.
The salad platter is placed in the center of the old white sheet, and the children hush. She settles the baby across her lap and makes a sandwich for each child.
One by one, the children tire, it has been a busy day, and the fun of the nighttime feast has worn them out.
He carries two of the children to bed, and she puts the baby in his cot. The two older children carry the glasses and water-jug indoors. Their mother goes to the bottom of the garden and stands there, silently, for a short moment.
She turns and gathers the last of the picnic, throws the sheet over her shoulder and walks back to the kitchen.
All the children are asleep, there are faint murmurings from the parent’s bedroom, the light is extinguished and the house is quiet.
Years later, the children are adults; they have all held that magical memory…of full tummies and evening stories.
They realize, their parents had not eaten a morsel.
Maria Snow-Hinkson is an artist, writer and ESL teacher. She recently transplanted to Pasadena from Australia via a sojourn in North China. Maria’s exploration of different cultures has inspired her short stories. She lives with her wife in a magic cave of books, paints, drawings and dreams, walking the streets and byways of her new life, spinning threads of experience into webs and tapestries of fiction.