Tuesday, January 27, 2009


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An antique photo of Grandmother.

I always envy my friends who still have grandparents around with them. When I was born, all my grandparents had passed away. I only realised the discrepancy when my classmates would address their grandparents when I went around visiting. I remember I had asked papa why I did not have any grandpa or grandma.

Hence I decided to also address my classmates' grandparents as "Grandma and Grandpa."
During Chinese New Year, I would also holler, "Grandma and grandpa, keong hee huat chye!" (Hokkien, meaning Wishing you prosperity!) Elderly folks often take delight in warm greetings by youngsters. You can imagine the number of red packets I collected every year.

Recently, during my visit to Penang during the Chinese New Year, I shared with my guest from India, Jasmin, whatever little I knew about Grandma. How Grandma was a nonya, and was often well groomed as she was someone very conscious of her looks. Just then, my Sister-in-law, Saw Kim, showed us a very old photo of Grandma which she had salvaged when she moved to her new condominium.

"Note Grandma's hairstyle and special pins for her Nonya outfit. In those days, the ladies did not use buttons. Some of these pins could be made of solid gold, adorned with precious stones like rubies, diamonds, sapphire or jade."

I looked at Grandma's photo and noted I had a slight resemblance to her. It was not surprising that some people had mistaken me to be a Malay, Thai or Filipino.

I often asked questions about the Grandparents that I had never seen. I was told that papa's mother was gentle and kind, and that papa took after her. In contrast, my maternal grandmother was shrewd and stern.

Sometimes when I heard people complaining about their grandparents, I wished they could be more appreciative ....that their parents could still be around. It is ironical that we tend to miss something when we do not have it or when we lose it.
Otherwise, most of us tend to take things too much for granted.

Gan Chau

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