Two years today

Between the passing of Lee Kuan Yew on Monday and the anniversary of my mother’s death today, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about who my heroes are.

Lee Kuan Yew was the man who made a great nation rise like a phoenix from the ashes of separation from Malaysia, and the kthxbai desertion from the Brits. My mother was the woman who rose far, far above her circumstances. And made it her life’s work to build us a deeply loving home.

And while I’m thankful to LKY, I’m indebted to my mother most of all. Because what good are four walls and a roof over one’s head, if there is no love therein?

Very disjointed thoughts, filled with themes that collide on occasion. I thought a little about what I wanted to blog about her today. I thought a lot about what I want my children to know about her. What I want them to remember before I forget.

Like the way her eyes crinkled when she smiled. And how perfect her teeth were. She never wore braces — wouldn’t have been able to afford them even if she had needed them, which she didn’t. I remember visiting a dentist at the National University Hospital and how the dean of the University’s dental faculty – also a brother in Christ – was so impressed by the fact that my mother, about my current age then, didn’t have any fillings in her teeth. He ended up getting photos done of her teeth to frame up, or use as teaching aids. I can’t quite remember. But she had perfect teeth, and a beautiful smile that she gave away generously.

I loved that smile. I yearned for her approval. No matter how hard I rebelled on and off, I know how much I always craved her approval. Even despite my best efforts.

Mothers and daughters.

My mother was still in her twenties when she faced the reality of living the rest of her life as a young, divorced mother. Singapore still isn’t a welfare state, and back then there was definitely nothing in place like Centrelink for young, struggling mothers. So it took a special kind of courage to decide to go it alone. I remember going to the old church building during the weekdays and playing with Pac Man on an Apple computer with the green screen while I waited dutifully. We were there, because my mother was seeking counsel. It was a decision that took years in the making, even while my parents stayed separate. Ultimately, I think she made the decision because it was obvious my father wasn’t serious about his vows, and my safety and security were paramount to her.

It’s why I feel particularly protective of her whenever I hear a sermon or a bible study about divorce. Sometimes, she would wonder aloud if she had made the righteous decision. It was the right decision, perhaps… but was it righteous in the sight of God? That tormented her sometimes. I wish it didn’t. My father walked away from his responsibilities, and then brought trouble back — repeatedly. She protected us. To this day, it makes me furious when I hear anything that could have made her feel guilty about her divorce because it was one of the most heroic actions she took for us.

I know she would have loved to meet Atticus. She would have made him laugh so hard, just as she did with Arddun that age. She just had that way with Arddun. I look at Atticus as I soak in his babyness, and I miss my mother because she can’t. Not in the flesh anyway.

I was just saying to Tony last night how I still can’t believe that my mother was cremated. There is something just so final about burning a body – even more so than burying it, perhaps. And yet, I remember holding her bones and letting them go in the sea. It remains the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. The heart physically squeezing as it breaks. The finality of it.

I still shop and mentally pick out things she would’ve liked. Bought a bag yesterday that she would have adored, and I would have probably given to her as a present. It was pure leather and had blue in it, of course it did. My children, your Grandma Singapore was almost obsessed with the colour blue. It’s why when she finally renovated her kitchen, it was like walking into Sea World. Blue upon blue. We called it the fishtank and laughed gently at her. But she loved her little kitchen. And then she stuck sea animals on the blue glass cabinet, because she loved us for laughing.

Blue never used to be my favourite colour. But I love it now, because when I carry a bit of blue, I take with me a bit of your grandmother.

It’s been two years. And I still wish fervently that I’d round a corner, only to find you standing there. Arms outstretched for a hug. Grinning.

Categories: Looking Around and Looking Within | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grappling with age and time

One always hears so much about Children, and How They Say the Darndest Things. Arddun is starting to question space, time, and her relationship to it.

“How old are you?” she asks Tony and I every day now. I’ve never been one to get coy about the years God’s given me, and neither is Tony. “Daddy is going to be 40 years old.” “Mummy is going to be 36 very soon.”

“No,” replies the little one each time, with all the certainty and conviction only youth can bestow. “Mummy, you have no number.”

I’m not sure why she’s happy to accept 40 for her dad, but insists I have no age. I suppose I should be flattered, except she is too young to understand the idea of Timelessness. Or is she? Her answer about me not having a number always elicits a small chuckle from Tony and I. Probably because we can’t think of any other suitable response.

Then yesterday, she replied with, “Yes, that’s right, Mummy. You are going to be 36. And I’m going to be 33.”

Perhaps, little one. But not just yet.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Arddun?”

“I want to be FREE!”

“You want to be free?”

No, Tony mimes behind her. She wants to be three.


And then there’s today’s question.

“Daddy,” I hear her ask in the next room. “How did you grow up”?

How indeed. How did any of us grow up. I’m not sure sometimes that I have. I was bumbling along merrily yesterday when I caught sight of something, and jealousy wrapped its heavy cloak around my shoulders again like I was 13 years old. In a blink, I was insecure, uncertain, ugly, weighed down.

How did I grow up? Will be mulling over that one, along with my NEW New year resolutions. Perhaps more on that later.

Categories: Moments and Milestones | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Arddun, aged 3 years 8 months

It’s been a while since I’ve done a monthversary post for Arddun. But if having Atticus has taught me anything thus far, it’s how quickly you forget the details.

And so here’s my snapshot in time. I’ve decided to try an interview, because I think she’s finally old enough to understand most of the questions. Even so, be warned. These answers pertain to the here and now. They might change in the next 30 seconds. ;-)

Arddun with pink handmade crown

Up Close and Personal with Miss Arddun

  1. What is your favourite colour?
  2. What is your favourite toy?
    Big Kitty (And has been for over 2 years now.)
  3. What is your favourite fruit?
    Tomato! (Which is a laugh, because she’s intolerant to it. I think she likes the idea of tomato.)
  4. What is your favourite TV show?
    Playschool (Most probably because she watched it this morning.)
  5. What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch?
    Green eggs and ham! Like in the story! (Proceeds to make loud chewing noises.)
  6. What is your favourite outfit?
    Elsa Dress!

    Arddun dressed as Elsa colouring at table

    Queen Elsa, hard at work

  7. What is your favourite game?
    Computer (I think she means my iPad. Either way, she hasn’t quite answered the question, has she.)
  8. What is your favourite snack?
  9. What is your favourite animal?
  10. What is your favourite song?
    Let It Go from Frozen! (Proceeds to sing first verse, just in case I wasn’t sure before.)
  11. What is your favourite book?
    Cat in the Hat (An unfair question, really. It’s like asking a mother to choose her favourite child.)
  12. Who is your best friend?
    Leila, Giselle, and Emily Woods (Again with the analogy above.)
  13. What is your favourite dinner?
    Pasta and chicken and peas (I’m VERY surprised she mentioned the peas.)
  14. What is your favourite thing to do outside?
    Blowing bubbles
    Arddun blowing bubbles with her eyes closed
  15. What is your favourite drink?
    Chocolate milkshake!
  16. Where is your favourite place to go?
    Play school
  17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?
    Big Kitty
  18. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?
    Strawberries! (She doesn’t have strawberries for breakfast. But now I know.)
  19. What do you want on your birthday?
    A Peppa Pig birthday cake! 
  20. What do you want to be when you grow up?
    Nothing. Excuse me, I need to do a poo.

#End interview#

Categories: Moments and Milestones | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

By hand

Dearest mum,

Sometimes, I’ll come across You.

Today, it happened when I was rummaging through my recipe folder

The one with the magazine clippings and stolen ideas

And hastily written hand-me-downs from people I love

And towards the back, I saw your handwritten note.

Something mundane, about a small wok you had bought me

But it struck me then how alive you once were

With thoughts and wishes and advice and love

And that you were an individual with fabulous penmanship

And a gift for giving

And a heart that would

And I miss you, oh so very much.

All these tears, just because I was trying to find

The recipe for pineapple tarts. xx

Categories: Moments and Milestones | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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