4 – Finding a Path
Liu Yun, who was preparing to clean up, suddenly looked stunned, and showed a bitter smile, “Sell knitted sweaters? The department store already sells these products, they also have to pay a lot of money to hire people and buy wool. They’re all big businesses, how could we follow their example…”
”No, Auntie, you’ve misunderstood.” Chen Yuanming shook his head gently, “Not sweaters or those larger pieces. What about smaller pieces, like a scarf or gloves? These kinds of things can be woven very quickly, and it doesn’t take much effort. If you can sell them … “
”Hai ~~ ” Liu Yun laughed,” Doudou, you really have money on your mind! In these times, who would buy mittens? People can just casually knit a pair themselves, if they don’t know how to knit a sweater, then shouldn’t they at least know how to knit gloves? Ah …” She looked at Chen Yuanming’s frostbitten hands, hesitated a little, then smiled and changed her words. “Your mother is just too busy. Once Auntie has some free time, I will knit you a pair… “
Chen Yuanming actually didn’t agree this time, but shook his head even more firmly, “I am not talking about those kinds of ordinary woolen mittens. Although those mittens can be worn outside, they’d still need to be taken off at home or in the classroom. Like our class, for example, we have a room full of 50-60 people, and we only have a single coal furnace in the back of the classroom. It’s barely warm in the winter, and holding pens and writing will freeze our hands. If you can knit a type of woolen gloves, divide it into five fingers, and leave half of the fingertips empty, then wouldn’t you be able to wear the gloves and still hold a pen and write? No one has done something like this before, and ordinary people may not be able to knit it, so there should be sales for it!” 
Liu Yun stopped her movements this time, and her slender eyebrows frowned slightly, as if she was thinking about it. After a long time, she finally hesitatingly asked, “What about the knitting yarn? The ones I have here are all for spring, and the colours…”
”The wool is not a problem.” Chen Yuanming said firmly, “It doesn’t take too much yarn to knit a pair of gloves anyway. I think the shorter threads with the brighter colours that you have left over at home can be used for making different colour combinations, just add a main color and it would be alright. The gloves also don’t need to be too thick, the key is for them to be flexible, convenient, and not irritating for the hands. Besides, people just want to have protection from the cold when they’re writing. Auntie, you could save up some left-over yarn from the sweaters that you’re knitting, and just use those directly.”
After knitting the sweaters, there’d naturally be some leftovers in the end. In the previous years, Liu Yun would use these threads to create some smaller pieces or add them onto larger pieces of clothing for her family. If she could save up all the leftover yarn… Well, even if she didn’t save them up, it’s not like she couldn’t just buy some more cost-effective balls of yarn. However, what this investment doesn’t work out in the end?
”Can … Can they really be sold?” In the end, she still gritted her teeth and asked this question. In these recent years, everyone was poor. They had just changed the old ways of working in the fields for food to working in factories, and many only dared to work within their own familiar areas of expertise. It was also because of this kind of timidity, that in the 1980s and 90s, those who had clever minds and dared to make a leap into the unknown, ended up being the first generation to become wealthy.
”Of course!” Chen Yuanming was very clear about the other side’s concerns, and pulled out a very bright smile, “Auntie, you have such good craftsmanship, and the things that you make could even be sold in the big shopping malls. It’s just a pair of small gloves, it’s really nothing much! Right now it’s only the end of January, and it’s still too early for the winter to pass. This year’s New Year is on February 15th, if you can finish making them before the Spring Festival , then you could set up a stand and sell them in front of the department store or the municipal government’s family hall. Just put out some bright colours and make it eye-catching, and you wouldn’t have to worry that those little girls who love beauty won’t go over and look! It hasn’t snowed yet this year, and the weather has been dry and cold, so there are definitely business opportunities!”
With so much encouragement from Chen Yuanming, Liu Yun’s heart was completely moved. She was originally a very lively person anyway, otherwise she wouldn’t have picked up extra work to do. Now that there was a simpler, more feasible idea for a new opportunity… She took a long breath and nodded, “Then… Then I could try it out first? No one has done this kind of thing before, so I really don’t know if it can be done at all. If it really works, then I will knit a pair for you two brothers first… “
”That’s the right mindset.” Chen Yuanming smiled back,” But Auntie, don’t let the information get out if you do succeed in making it, just in case someone else tries to do it too… “
” Oh! Ai ~~ I know this! “Liu Yun also smiled. The styles for sweaters were also like this. By using only a fashion magazine as a reference, many of the looks inside can be replicated and knitted. Everyone would only knit at home by themselves or with their daughters, if their ideas were stolen by others, then they wouldn’t be able to catch up with the rest.
The two smiled happily together, and Sun Lang, who was standing by the side, opened his mouth and asked stupidly, “What are you two talking about? I definitely don’t want knitted wool gloves! They’re way too troublesome to wear…”
”Ah, you silly boy!” Liu Yun lifted her hand and gave her son’s head a smack, “Look at Doudou being so clever and capable, while everyone that you’ve learned might as well have ended up in a dog’s stomach!”
”Hey! Mom!” Sun Lang felt that he had been unjustly insulted, just what did he do wrong! “I’m also in the advanced class in the Second middle school. I can definitely get into the top 50 this time …”
”50 farts! The Second Middle School isn’t even an advanced school! Go and do the dishes!!” 
”What?!” Sun Lang jumped up from the chair, “It’s such a cold day, and you want me to wash the dishes?!”
”You child, I’m the one who made the food so what’s wrong with you washing the dishes?!”
Chen Yuanming looked at the mother and son pair who had started bickering, and stood up with a smile, “Auntie, let me do it, I often wash the dishes at home anyway…”
”Ah, how could that be okay? Your hands are still frozen, you shouldn’t be touching cold water all the time… Er Mao!” With a frown, Liu Yun glared at her son, and even used his nickname.
Sun Lang glanced at Chen Yuanming’s dark, red, thin, and dry hands, and finally admitted defeat. “Alright… I’m going, I’m going, it’s only washing the dishes~~~ Doudou, you sit here and wait, later when your brother has finished washing, I’ll show you my newly bought picture card!”
He mumbled this, and walked towards the sink carrying their three bowls.
”This child!” Liu Yun smiled awkwardly, and looked at Chen Yuanming, who was standing by the side calmly, seeming not at all like a child. She suddenly felt a little distressed for him in her heart. Such a smart and clever child, why couldn’t he be her own child? Unfortunately, Old Chen’s family hasn’t been living very well recently, they’ve really wronged the child…
While thinking about this, Liu Yun pushed Chen Yuanming back into his seat, “Doudou, you sit down, let Auntie make you a cup of red date tea. The red dates that your Uncle sent a few days ago are very sweet.”
After he was pressed back into the seat, Chen Yuanming sat at the dining table and looked at the family bustling around, and a warm feeling passed through his heart. He was actually very envious of them. The more he accepted the memories in his mind, the more he envied such warmth, but for his own family, was that still a possibility? The light in his eyes slowly faded. Some things he may not be able to change, but others, he must at least give it a try…
That day, he spent almost the whole afternoon at Sun Lang’s house. After looking through that guy’s full collection of the Three Kingdoms’ generals picture cards and his homemade bamboo Zhao Zilong stick figure , Chen Yuan thanked the other person for escorting him on the bicycle, and slowly walked home.
In the middle of winter, it was already dark outside at 5 o’clock. When he entered the door to the house, the hot water in the pot had just begun to boil. His mother was holding a small bowl of noodles and standing in front of the coal stove, preparing to make noodle soup. When she saw that her son came back, her movements sped up a bit, and she asked with a smile, “Where did you go out to play today?”
”I went out to take a walk, and just happened to run into Sun Lang, so I went over to his house for a while.”
”Sun Lang?” Wang Juan froze, then smiled, “Was it Maomao ? Did you see Auntie Liu? We haven’t seen much of them since their family moved to the Yijing district.”
”Yeah, Aunt Liu was also at home. At noon, I ate at their house, it was handmade noodles. “
”Ah, you child, why didn’t you be more sensible towards them…” Wang Juan frowned, “Nevermind it, next time you see them just bring them a little something…” After saying only half of the sentence, she suddenly couldn’t go on, and she gritted her teeth slightly, her jaw twitching a little, “Alright, that’s enough, head inside first, the food will be ready soon.”
Of course, Chen Yuanming knew what the words that his mother swallowed back were. It didn’t matter with outsiders, but with close friends, she was embarrassed to show weakness in front of them. However, the family really didn’t have the conditions to put on appearances anymore. In these two years, their social interactions with people have lessened by a lot. Although everyone has been living hard, bitter lives in these recent years, and there really weren’t many who would outright look down on the poor and love the rich, but poverty still made her unable to lift her head, and her self-esteem has become a lot more sensitive.
Without saying anything, Chen Yuanming walked through the door. He saw his father sitting at the spread-out small table, slightly hunching his body, and his entire figure gave out an air of exhaustion. It was almost the end of the year, the factory was rushing to get more work done, and each branch of the factory was beginning to arrange for overtime work. Just to earn a little more from working overtime, his father, Chen Jianhua, hasn’t taken a break for a whole month now, not even on his only day-off on Sundays. All of it was just for earning a little more money before the New Years, to live a little better before through the end of the year…
Chen Yuanming’s footsteps stopped, and the man on the opposite side had already snapped out of his daze. Upon seeing his son, his first reaction was to frown, and he then directly started to scold, “Did you fucking go out to make trouble again!! You’re already in your third year of junior high, aside from fighting and going out to goof off, what else do you know how to do?! Why can’t you just obediently finish your homework, have you finished your homework for the winter vacation yet?!”
”We haven’t been assigned any homework for winter vacation yet”…” Chen Yuanming answered in a low voice, and his eyes were a bit sour . In that past life, his relationship with his father had always been very bad. If it wasn’t about his studies, then it was about work, and he had never once heard a word of praise from his father. It was always criticism and scolding, and an anger that stemmed from hating iron for not becoming steel . Due to the matter of him quitting his job and heading North, he pretty much cut off all ties with his family, and it wasn’t until he finally started making money that their relationship began to improve. After his financial management company was established, the problems that had once been resolved already then turned into the issue of getting married and starting a family. In regards to that matter, he would never be able to satisfy his parents wishes…
In the world where he had died, he didn’t know how his parents would’ve reacted. His company had collapsed, but the accounts were basically clear and there was still an inheritance left, so they… Chen Yuanming dryly swallowed some saliva, and feeling some panic in his heart, he blurted out the words, “I… I did well on the exam this time, and I will study hard…”
To help you free yourselves from this kind of life…
Chen Jianhua was speechless after hearing those sudden words, and after stuttering a few words, he finally waved his hand and lowered his head again. Wang Juan quickly served the finished soup. Unlike other people’s sweet noodle soup, his family’s noodle soup was always salty. There were two cabbage leaves thrown in it, and a little bit of salt, which was slightly better than just plain boiled water, but it would have been great if there were some buns to eat.
”Hurry up and eat while it’s still hot!” As if to ease the relationship between the father and son pair, Wang Juan chatted away as she served up the food and sat down at the dinner table, “You should also stop nitpicking at Doudou everyday, as long as he can get into university, then he can also receive a 120 yuan salary like those higher-skilled workers at the main factory, right, Doudou!”
The 15-watt light bulb in the room emitted a dim yellow light. In the light and shadows, Chen Yuanming nodded and started eating.
- Mittens, gloves: So the Chinese word for “mittens” and “gloves” is the same, which is why they’re having trouble communicating about the type of gloves that Chen Yuanming wants Liu Yue to knit.
- Spring Festival: Another name for the Chinese New Year.
- Second Middle School: So I was kind of confused about this, but I guess the middle schools in this story are named by numbers?
- Three Kingdoms, Zhao Zilong: A time period in Chinese history when China was split up into three main warring factions (I think), and there’s a very famous book based on it called “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. Zhao Zilong was a general from that time.
- Maomao: Sun Lang’s nickname.
- Sour: Meaning his eyes started to tear up.
- Hating iron for not becoming steel: Meaning to hate something or someone for not living up to expectations, or for not being what you want them to be.
T/n: Sorry if the translation is a little messed up… Translating this novel turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be…
Let me know if the way that this is translated is difficult to read or if there’s awkward wording or any mistakes, and I’ll try my best to fix it!