Thursday, 26 July 2007
My childhood wasn’t all work and no play. We had barrels of fun playing with our friends in the countryside. Being the tomboy, I joined my brothers and neighbours in their ‘combat’ exercises. We dug trenches, built sheds using leaves from the coconut palms, climbed trees, shot each other with our home-made wooden rifles and threw eggs (sponsored by friends from the neighbouring chicken farm) at the 'enemies'.
Saturdays were the most exciting! We would be glued to our black & white television screen, watching “Sesame Street” in the morning, the Japanese superman “Ultraman” in the afternoon, the much anticipated “Donny & Marie Show" in the evening, followed by "Combat” starring the unsmiling hero Vic Morrow. Can you remember the Combat music at the start of the show? So lame... but that was our favourite show!
On some weekends, dad would bring us to Uncle Cheng Nam’s place. He’s my dad’s best friend who lived by the sea. Today he’s a professor in an Australian university but during those days, he used to do a lot of research on marine life in his backyard. There were always tanks of shrimps and marine creatures to mess around with. He went on to discover a specie of crab in the mangrove swamps. Maybe there’s a crab named after him! We had so much fun playing with his 2 boys and always ended up with a beach BBQ!
Mum’s best friend Aunty Madevi lived near Tengah Air Base with her Chinese/Indian parents. I enjoyed the Deepavali visits the best! Their pristine little Indian village under the coconut grove would be beautifully decorated with colours and festive lights. Everyone would be dressed in beautiful sarees and traditional costumes, and plying us with sweets and traditional goodies. So festive and happy, certainly a sight to behold!
There was always some kind of festival going on according to the Lunar calendar. Grandma would make rice dumplings one day, and glutinous rice balls on another. On the special dates of the Toaist calendar, you would find her beating eggs and sugar in her big red bucket at the crack of dawn, preparing sponge cakes for offerings. We always had plenty of food from the celebrations and festivities. She always stocked our favourite orange fizzy soda during Chinese New Year.
As if not enough, we had all kinds of fruit trees growing in the yard – rambutan, durian, jackfruit, buah dong dong, mango, starfruit, orange, sugar cane, lemon, lime, pomelo, jambu… just about any tropical fruit that can thrive in our climate! You could find us eating ripe, succulent rambutans up on the big old tree, tossing the empty shells to the ground like monkeys!
We often got into all kinds of mischief. Mum would start yodeling for us if we went missing in action. Mostly she would catch us netting colourful little fishes at the river bank or creeping in the undergrowth, catching butterflies or spiders. She would threaten us with a cane but we always outran her! Till today, she still marveled at how we managed to stay out of big trouble despite all the potential danger around us.
When I was a teenager, (and no longer enjoyed being a tomboy) my favourite hideout was at the river bank where I would plant myself amongst the tall grass swaying gently in the breeze. You would find me gazing into the distance, trying to imagine I was on a prairie, crafting poems in my head while posing like a model on a photo shoot. Cringe!