right smack in the midst of the chinese new year festivities, when most of you are either food-comatosing on pineapple tarts/abalone soup and/or attempting in vain to recoup your losses from mahjong/blackjack/poker, the Lee family on upper boon keng road had decided to SPRING CLEAN THEIR STOREROOM. we also got rid of our couch, (we’re STILL COUCHLESS as im typing this btw), lookin to get a proper TV bench to sort out storage for our overflowing “media area” and also to sort out the ridiculously overflowing shoe-rack situation.
this was a “project” that was 3 years late. we were in such a hurry to move in and settle back then that we chucked all the odds and ends into the bomb shelter and closed it up… inside that space was also our mom’s secret metal file cabinet. we never really gotten round to opening it up, thinkin its just legal documents/files of obscure boring paperwork stuff… oooh boy.. were we wrong.
this whole “spring cleaning” process took place over 2 evenings and one full saturday. our living room was FILLED TO THE MAX with junk and boxes! i found boxes containing old bags of mine (eek i had really dubious taste back then), ryan’s army uniform and boots, we rediscovered our shisha, old photo albums, ryan’s stamp collection and his italian football scrap book where he kept newspaper clippings of all his favourite teams…. i found some old awards, cds, embarrassing photos and even love letters! it truly a trip down memory lane.
and then we decided to open up our mom’s dubious metal file cabinet. wah. i couldnt believe the stuff we discovered… hardcore. stuff she kept were HARDCORE. i found my birth card (it has info of the time i was born, how much i weighed, my size at birth etc), all my report books/cards from when i was in NURSERY SCHOOL, my swimming achievement patches, even the bus card i had when i was takin the school bus back in primary school! she kept everything… you know how i was afraid that i’d forget her and have nothing to remember her by? well, after lookin thru her cabinet, i decided to scan everything.. the letters we wrote her, the things we made for her… cuz when i read those the night before, i felt close to her again.
PAP report card.
omg. i was such a badly behaved kid. while most kids either had a “good” or “very good” for conduct in class, i only managed a “fair”. and the teacher was being kind. i vaguely remember getting so pissed off at this one girl in class that i pushed her off her seat. mom was called to school… apparently that girl got hurt and was bleeding. from then on, no one wanted to hang out with me during playtime.
yup. that was my irritating senget-lipped-rascal face when i was in kindergarten. my mom wanted kids with curly hair so she PERMED my straight glossy locks. PERMED! i wasnt even 5 yrs old and i was subjected to chemical treatment. its like you could even forgive me for reacting violently towards that kiddo i pushed. chemicals prob gotten to my brains.
we couldnt afford to buy mom anything when we were little, so we’d create recitals for mom as gifts during christmas time and on mother’s day. we’d usually draw up a performance programme sheet for mom. this was one we did when we were abt 7 yrs old..
and on mother’s day a coupla decades ago, we gave her 3 gifts: we packed our cupboard, we made her a surprise breakfast and we used our “hard own” money to buy the breakfast. LOL. the surprise breakfast and the money we used to make that surprise happen were considered as two separate gifts! what were we thinking..??! LOL.
mom wrote EVERYTHING down. i found this lil post-it note where she documented my chicken pox experience like a lil post0it blog of sorts… its in mandarin cuz my mom’s mandarin-Ed. she speaks perfect english but was more comfortable using chinese words. so now i know i had chicken pox on wednesday 27th may 1992 which ended 3 days later on saturday 30th may. i dont really understand the rest…
and then mom sunk into depression after dad left us… this was written when i was still a catholic and believed in the concept of a god.
how irritatingly positive was i? LOL!
omg. then i found my very first NRIC! it was like laminated style.. i think the 79’ers were the last batch of kiddos who had these made! ancient!
and taaadaaaah! evidence that i once took busses! these retro bus cards and stamps were awesome la! its one time flat monthly fee in exchange for UNLIMITED TRAVEL! (not loving the photos on the cards though)
and then i saw this. this was the year i FAILED NEARLY EVERY SINGLE SUBJECT except english and literature. like everything. i was retained in sec 3. sigh. it was sooo embarrassing.. i was the oldest girl in class. didnt help that i stuck out like a sore thumb cuz i was so freakishly tall! but i needed that hard knock. i didnt set my priorities straight back then. i was focussed instead on my dance career (i had danced professionally from when i was 13, it was a juggle between that and school) and neglected my studies. blessing in disguise: i got to know Charlene. (we’ve been best friends for years now)
i remember my principal’s, Sister Cecily, words to me: “you need to get down from that high horse you’re riding and focus your energies on whats more important.”
back when mobile phones were not common and unaffordable, we wrote notes to each other. mom had to work coupla jobs to support us so she was hardly around at home.. this was the best way to keep in touch. (she kept EVERY SINGLE THING i wrote to her.. even notes about pocket money. its like STACKS of it that filled one briefcase. these are only some..)
we made this lil “map” of sorts, came complete with a toy compass, to lead mom to her present.. this was done by Ryan when he was about 7 yrs old:
a briefcase filled with every single card we made her…
mom used to make me write notes detailing the amount of money i need for school and the reasons why. i think its probably her way of keeping track of the money flow. this was one of the maaaaany that ive written to her over the pocket money years…
BOOK EXHIBITION! we were such nerds.
omg. i found it. my malaysian passport. back in those days, we could apply for a malaysian passport once we turn 18 (without parental consent). this symbolised my freedom. i’d make day trips to JB and then got bolder and made frequent weekend trips to malacca. i was dating this eurasian doode from malacca back then.. he lived and worked in singapore so we’d travel back and forth on his motorbike. mom didnt like this doode. in fact, she confiscated this passport back then to stop me from hanging out with him and this is the FIRST TIME after so many years that im laying eyes on it! LOL! (i eventually broke up with him cuz he was getting abit too possessive and psychotic, guess mom knew best)
my surname was “oliveiro” back then.. after my dad. but we changed our names to “lee”, after my mom, cuz we decided that dad was too much of a jerk for leaving us that we didnt wanna bear his name. i legally changed my surname when i was 21. so this was PRE-21 OMG! my face.like.a.bowling.ball.
this was a letter of apology. i freaked out the night before my “O” levels results and didnt go home.
this was back in polytechnic.. an attempt to reassure my mom after she received a warning letter from school abt my poor attendance. (realise at this point that i had to apologize ALOT as a kid?! lol. i wasnt the easiest kid to live with i admit, my mom really had her hands full when it came to me..)
AT WENDY CHENG: ARE YOU READING THIS? MY MOM GAVE ME FALSE EYELASHES LEH! this was when i was a dancer with the People’s Association Modern Dance Group… so i must have been 13-15.. around there la.
after my dad left us, mom destroyed every single photo that had my dad in it. like everything. without warning. they were all gone before the morning came and we were left with vague memories of how my dad looked like. but my darling Ryan managed to keep one hidden away in his stamp collection book that we found while we were spring cleaning… precious. they were such a handsome couple.. they were married on valentine’s day.
we thought that was it. UNTIL we discovered this: tucked away in the abyss of mom’s dubious metal cabinet, was our family photo! this is like the FIRST TIME since dad left us that we are seeing this photo. its very very very precious. guess that dragon lady had a heart after all. sentimental la she… guess she never stopped loving my dad. she really had a tough life la that silly woman. i miss her loads man.
with dad gone (for the longest time, left us but he’s still alive somewhere) and now mom in the recent years (cancer), ryan and i have had to survive as independant individuals from a very young age. so much, that its easy to forget that we were once part of a rather happy and complete family. and that photo just somehow pulls it all back together into one piece again. i hope to reconcile with my dad. he’s living brunei now. bet he still doesnt know mom passed on. ive reached out thru my cousin that we’re willing to forgive and forget but he’s yet to respond to that.. its been over a year. i guess he cant deal with the guilt? the burden of guilt drives us to do silly things. sigh. but whatever his reasons may be, i hope to make peace before really he leaves us for good.