In a fast changing world where people are always so busy and on the move in and outside of Singapore, it is good to know that every Chinese New Year Day, we are visited without fail by one family, who doesn’t fall into the “old friend” or relatives categories.
Sometimes I wonder if this family had risen spectacularly in the world, whether they would continue to make the annual visit. Their spirit might be willing but their social and travel schedules would surely not permit?
This family falls under the category of my mother’s ex-staff: young girls from Malaysia who trained at her hair dressing salon and then moved on, to marry and/or greener pastures.
The “matriarch” of this family is now a grandmother and visits that had begun decades ago, with just one newly wed couple, expanded to include a baby girl. This baby grew up, married and brought her husband, then her own little girl, followed by a baby boy and finally a baby girl.
Yesterday, the entire family was at my home again and the extra young man who came along with them last year as a “friend” is now engaged to the older grand-daughter, their marriage to be registered this month after they booked a 3-room HDB flat in Marsiling.
Recounting this makes me realise how much time has passed and how the bedrock of Singapore is made up of families such as that of my mother’s visitors.
More poignant still was a remark made by the daughter of my mother’s ex-staff — who though far younger than me is poised to become a mother-in-law.
“You know,” she said wandering into the section of the sitting room where we have a set of prayer tables on which a few statues of Buddha and Kwan Yin are placed.
“You know, I first saw this when I was a very little girl..”
“Is it? That was in Chip Bee Gardens?”
“No, Grange Road…”
“You mean Grange Heights?”
“No, Grange Road… walk up blocks. I still remember the blocks had A, B, C, D in front…”
(My family had lived at both ends of Grange Road).
“Ohhhh… there, yes…. I remember more clearly about you visiting us as a Primary school kid when we were in Chip Bee Gardens…”
“And from there, you moved to Jalan Jintan and then River Valley Close…”
I could have completed the chronicle of our house moves for her: and from there to Grange Heights, Cairnhill Circle and now the present home.
As we talked, my mind went further back to the time when the altar tables first appeared. We were moving to a brand new house — our family’s first — in Upper Thomson Road. My paternal grandmother decided to present us with the tables that had been sitting gathering dust for years in her own home, after she had them shipped over from China.
That was also the time when the little girl who was about to become a mother-in-law wasn’t even a twinkle in her mother’s eye, since her mum hadn’t met her dad yet, she was working for my mum and my mum was still running her hair salon.
Nowadays, my mum just talks about the time she used to be a hair-dresser! 😉