Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So, This Shop Closed And I Cried

Since moving to my new job at the beginning of last year, I began frequenting a little shop on the corner of Drury Lane that most of my co-workers also visited. Known for their icy-cold, fresh fruit smoothies and individually packed dried fruits and nuts, this little place was run by a very adorable older Cantonese-speaking Chinese couple and their son.

The first time I went in, I heard the lady speaking Cantonese, which made my ears perk up, since I'm fluent in the Chinese dialect. When I paid, I conversed with her in Chinese (to her surprise) and learned that she had emigrated from Hong Kong nearly 40 years ago. After that first meeting, I'd drop by to buy rice crackers and other snacks, but mostly as an excuse to visit the lady, or Mrs. Wong, as I learned was her name.

Why? Because she reminded me of my grandma. And also, it was nice to have someone to speak Cantonese with, even if just for a short, friendly exchange. But mostly because she reminded me of my grandmother, and then my family, and of Hong Kong, and how I sometimes feel the Chinese part of my culture slipping away, which makes me very, very sad.

Later, when she got to know me a bit better, she'd quietly put fresh plums or apples in a bag with my purchase despite my protests, and send me on my way. If I popped out to buy a snack in the afternoon, she'd ask me why I was taking my lunch so late. It warmed my heart.

Anyway, I walked past this shop today and noticed, with shock, that they were closing down. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Wong and their son were only there to clean the shop and pack up the rest of their belongings. I knocked on the window and asked Mrs. Wong their reason for leaving. She cited the fact that their lease was up and her son mentioned that his parents were getting older, and thinking of retirement.

She stuffed three apples and two oranges in my hand, then asked her son to take a picture of us together. Then she hugged me and patted my hand, like my grandmother used to.

And that's when I lost it. I cried. Like, really cried.

I told her she reminded me of my grandmother, of my family, and of Hong Kong - and how I missed her, them, it, and in turn, would miss her shop.

Then she cried. And wiped her tears on her apron.

We traded phone numbers (both UK and Hong Kong) and email addresses and I made her promise to send me the picture of us.

It's always sad when family-owned businesses shut down. I also know how popular that shop was, so it wasn't as if they were short of customers. But I guess that for them, life goes on, and they're starting a new chapter. I hope it's a good chapter - because they're the kind of people who deserve it.

For me, I feel like I've lost a little connection to "home" - whatever that means.



  1. oh no! don't forget though that you made a connection with another person. a really good connection with someone here in london and it made you both happy.

    i'm glad you got to say goodbye to them.

  2. I'm so sorry you lost such a beautiful retreat - and i hope you and Mrs. Wong can nurture a friendship through email and phone conversations!

  3. Thanks, Abby and Lizzie, for helping me see the bright side and making me feel a bit better! Still a bit teary today.


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