He tried getting the young girl into his shop be luring her in with tasty noodles. Outside it was storming and cold. She just wanted a place to dry off, even if the man in the store was making her feel more nervous than she’d like.
He was the owner of the store, so she was sure she was in a safe place. But the man would make his intentions clear soon enough. Even when she told him she didn’t talk to strangers, that just made him move even closer to her.
A 7-year-old girl named Yin Canlian happened to pass the noodle shop on her way home from school. This young lady excelled in school and was respectful of others. Initially, she didn’t pay much attention to the owner.
But she would always recall her conversation with the proprietor of the eatery. The event would stay etched in her memory for the next 25 years, just as if it had happened yesterday.
Noodle Shop Entrepreneur
Dong Nianhe, 65, was once the owner and operator of a noodle business. There were no children or marriages in his life.
Twenty-five years ago, Dong Nianhe saw a young girl standing outside a noodle shop he owned. His attention was drawn to the young girl, perhaps seven years old, who waited in front of his restaurant every afternoon, looking ravenous. Eventually, Dong Nianhe approached her while she gazed at the cooking pot.
After School Ritual
She would stand in front of the noodle restaurant on her way home from school every day and watch the man prepare noodles.
Although the girl had developed a practice of stopping by each day, she had never tried to enter. She would observe the man at work while losing herself in the fragrance of freshly made noodles. However, the owner saw her and made a decision to take action.
Asking Her A Question
He spotted the young girl again one day when there weren’t many customers in his shop. After preparing some noodles, he approached her. “Hungry? I’ve got a gift for you. Come with me!”
The girl stood there still. She had a gut feeling that there was a problem with it all. She also needed to eat. She couldn’t make up her mind as she stood there in front of the man, waiting for the right response.
“I, I…have no money,” said the little girl. “Grandpa said that you can’t accept other people’s things if you have nothing to give in return. Even if you accept it, you must exchange it for equal value.” So she politely declined.
She hurriedly raced away after turning around. But the owner of the business wasn’t going to give up so quickly.
He Was All She Had
Dong Nianhe inquired whether anyone who knew the young girl because he was intrigued. He discovered out that her parents had left for employment five years earlier and had never returned. Since then, she has shared a home with her grandfather, and they rely on one another.
The girl’s grandpa was the only person remaining who could provide for her, and he did his best. But would that be enough to protect her from danger?
A Humbling Realization
The child and her grandfather were residing in a run-down home. When she got home from school, she would help on the farm and make dinner. Typically, dinner consisted solely of a bowl of white porridge.
She frequently felt hungry and occasionally desired for better and tastier things. However, her grandfather did not have a lot of money and all he could afford was porridge.
He Had A Plan
The girl’s miserable living circumstances inspired a thought in the restaurateur. He came up with a plan to make the most of this circumstance and persuade the girl to embrace his offer.
Even though Dong Nianhe knew it wouldn’t be simple, he had to give it a shot. He was unable to shake the girl from his thoughts. He had to take action sooner rather than later.
The young child was in front of the store. Even though it was raining, she couldn’t help but give in to the smell of the fried noodles. She was starving. She never had enough food, and she couldn’t help herself.
She was welcomed inside and given a cup of noodles by the owner of the restaurant. But this time, there were conditions linked to his offer. He was startled by what the 7-year-old daughter did after initially hesitating.
The man came up with an idea he knew the little girl would not refuse. When he saw Yin Canlian again, he said, “As long as you teach me to write a word every day, I could give you a bowl of noodles.”
The little girl could not believe what he was offering, though she said timidly, “Can I teach you two? I want to exchange for two bowls of noodles.” At that moment, Dong Nianhe knew she was giving her grandfather the other bowl of noodles, so he cheerfully replied, “Of course, you can.”
Since then, Yin Canlian came to teach Dong Nianhe some new words each day for a bowl of noodles, and this exchange lasted for five years. After graduating from elementary school, Dong Nianhe noticed that she no longer passed by his restaurant.
She and her grandfather have disappeared. The restaurant owner discovered that a distant relative of Yin Canlian had taken them into their care and brought them to the city.
25 Years Later
Fast forward 25 years later, Dong Nianhe’s small noodle restaurant had become a local specialty snack shack. The owner had also become an elderly man over 60 years of age. Since he could not bear children, his two previous marriages ended in divorce.
For him, it was quite lonely having aged without a family. But every day for five years, he wondered who had been sending him $7,855.00 (50,000 yuan) every month. No letter or note was attached to the money. His friends advised him to close the restaurant and retire since he had kept all the money he received. He had a small fortune he could then use in his twilight years.
The man didn’t close the restaurant because he was still waiting for the little girl he saw across the street in the early afternoons. He muttered to himself, “I’m waiting for someone. If the noodle shop is closed, I’m afraid she won’t find her way to me.”
Dong Nianhe still waited for the little girl with the red school bag who came in front of his restaurant every afternoon. He still remembered her like it was yesterday, even though it was long ago.
One day, when he looked at the street, he was speechless. There she was! She may have grown older, but it was definitely her. The woman entered his noodle shop with tears in her eyes and said, “Dad, I’m back!”
Dong Nianhe ran to her excitedly. In his heart, his daughter had returned. He then discovered that she had been returning to his neighborhood since she started working, secretly watching him at his noodle restaurant and sending him money every month. It was all because the man helped her in her most difficult time.
Yin Canlian still had the same sweet face she had as a little girl. Her style seemed to remain the same, and she was dressed modestly and still had a love for red handbags.
She looked happy and healthy, and it seemed like life was treating her well. The feeling of love they had when they hugged each other was just like how it was when they first started spending time together.
Returning The Favor
Dong Nianhe humbly ushered her inside the shop. Yin commented on how it looked so different from when she was a little girl but that the feeling inside was still the same.
He made her sit down at her usual table, and Yin started thanking him for still being so kind. He quickly went to the back to start preparing her favorite meal, noodles.
The simple salesman returned with a steaming bowl of rice noodles.
Yin smiled with glee as he walked towards her and placed her favorite childhood treat before
her. “I have something for you, too,” she said as she bent over the table. She took out a neatly wrapped box from her red bag and placed it on the table in front of Yin.
The Girl’s Story
Dong gleamed at her with tears in his eyes, “You having returned to see me is the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. I am so happy that you haven’t forgotten this poor old man,” he said.
“I always hoped that it would be you that was sending me the money, and I never used a cent because I was waiting for you to come. Why did you leave all of a sudden without saying goodbye?”
The 32-year-old woman looked lovingly at Dong, and she replied, “I was a small girl, and Aunty didn’t want to cause any problems with anybody when we left because she wanted us to all start afresh.”
She pushed the box towards him, “This will explain everything.” Dong picked up the box and opened it; he was shocked to see what was inside.
Inside was an ancient Golden Chinese Medallion. It was from the War, and he knew exactly what it was because he had one exactly like it.
“Where did you find this?” he exclaimed. “These are special medallions given to the greatest army heroes and War Veterans. Most of the people have moved away or even died; how did you manage to get this in your possession?” he continued to question her.
Yin explained that the long-lost relative was actually their great aunt Yan, her grandfather’s grand-niece. Yan’s father (Yins’ Grandfather’s brother) was a strict older man who was a colonel in the Chinese Army.
The two brothers never saw eye-to-eye and decided to live in different states and never saw each other again. Before he died, he gave her the medal and asked her to find his brother’s child because she was the true heir to the family fortune.
An Uncle’s Joy
Dong was an orphan. He never met his father and was young when his mother died. And when he turned 18, the Guardian at the Orphanage gave him a single token to keep as his identity; it was the Golden Medallion, just like the one which belonged to his brave father, who was a soldier.
Yin explained that there was a big secret between their families over all these years. The brothers had another brother who had died in the war, leaving a small child behind, Dong.
Finally, years of confusion and pain started to make sense to Dong. This Golden Medallion was proof that he had a history, a past, and a family.
He had felt like a failure his whole life and Yin was always his shining light, even now in his final years. Now he knew why. She was actually his niece in real life.
Yin said that Aunt Yan wanted them all to get together again. “Would you like to meet your Aunt?” she asked him.
Dong looked questioningly at her. Although he was happy that she was back and relieved to hear this news about his family history, something didn’t feel right, and he still felt like he needed some questions answered.
All Is Forgotten
“She just wants her family to be together again. All these years of being alone with her father and his bitterness made her realize what was most important in life, family. She has no issues with anybody but also understands why you would be confused or angry,”Yin said.
“That’s why I couldn’t face you about it because I didn’t know how you would take it, and neither would she. That’s why she also gave me money to give to you, because she felt bad, guilty almost!”
Dong understood why his great-cousin would be afraid to tell him the truth. So he agreed to meet her on one condition.
He didn’t tell Yin anything else and walked back into his Noodle kitchen, which felt familiar and at home. Yin was excited to have the family together again and started preparing for their return trip up North.
Not Everyone Is Happy
Two days later, Yin and Dong traveled to visit Great Aunt Yan. She was thrilled to see them. She welcomed them inside her humble home and offered them refreshments.
Dong told her that she didn’t need to explain anything and he just wanted everyone to be happy and at peace. He didn’t want or need any more money. While he appreciated her generosity, he felt she could do much better with her wealth.
30-Year Issues Resolved
Dong told her that he had been thinking of retiring for a while now and that all his prayers were answered by Yin returning.
He requested that Yin receive all the family’s generational wealth as she was the only child left. Yin was most surprised to hear this and vowed that she would take the family name further with pride.
Peace At Last
Although both Yin and Dong had childhoods’ that were less than happy, they still found solace in each other’s simple happiness. Yin decided to keep the Noodle Shop open and met a wonderful man who she married. They had children, ran it together, and all lived together as one happy joint family.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.