Momentous May

Smooth taufoo fa served with metal spoon!
Mothers always feature highly in the month of May and this May was no different because we not only celebrated mothers but marked the 100th birthday of our dear grandmother. 

Looking back to the preparation for this special event, a great deal of the leg work was completed in the last few days before the weekend of 18 – 19 May.  It was hard work, battling heavy traffic to shuttle all over the city in the scorching sun – from the old town to new malls – but it was fun and worth the effort. 

It also gave me the opportunity to rediscover Johor Baru’s heritage in old shops like Ban Thye that was “the” department store for everything way back when, and a retro themed café where the bowl and metal spoon used with my serving of smooth taufoo fa was reminiscent of a bygone era!  With every spoonful I scooped, it was sheer pleasure in slicing through the beancurd and reliving the days when we used to eat from bowls using similar spoons from the mobile hawker we nicknamed, “Beano” who passed No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng daily on its way to Chinatown, Jalan Ungku Puan where they did brisk business!

Series of trail prints to get it right!
One of my projects early this month was to print a montage of grandma’s photos in the desired format and colour to personalise the souvenir gift bag.  Thanks to advanced technology and the computer graphic skills of Wee Kiat, son of the proprietor in Wilson Copying Enterprise, we finally got it right!  He worked patiently to give us what we wanted – from the choice of paper, getting it cut to size and several trail runs later – we sighed with relief because it was exactly what we set out to achieve!

On the Mother’s Day weekend, mums were celebrated with cards, gifts, flowers and the mandatory meal at a restaurant of her choice.  We however, did not join the crowd for the annual commercialized celebrations because to us, Mother’s Day is every day.  Almost every weekend is a special dine-out event with our parents, and they understand that we need not join the crowd where mums may be feted for one day and forgotten the rest of the year.  When my brother reminded mum that we were not going to a special dinner, mum graciously assured us that she was not, kecik hati (upset).

Our friend, Katherine Wong, and her son
For us it was an ordinary yum-cha meal with the family at one of our favourite Chinese dim-sum restaurants and an opportunity to catch up on the happenings in our busy lives.  Our meal was going on like any normal Sunday brunch until my sister suddenly noticed a friend who came into the restaurant with her son.  And he was wearing a T-shirt printed with a message that left no doubt about whom he was honouring that day!

The much anticipated weekend of grandma’s 100th birthday celebration was a wonderful reunion of family members who came from near and far to celebrate her life.  We debated whether to light up 100 candles on her birthday cake but decided against it because we guessed that by the time the last row of candles were lit up the first row may have all melted!  So cousin Gillian got digit candles instead and they looked lovely on grandma’s cake…

Grandma, bathed in the glow of her 100 candles!

Two types of eggs – chicken and quail – were hardboiled and tinted red as an auspicious item for her birthday celebration.  These traditional red eggs were served throughout the day and in the next day’s luncheon reception, another auspicious egg platter was one of the dishes in the menu.  It was a skillfully soft-boiled version still in their eggshells topped with dark sauce and served with a side of interesting crispy wisp-covered ball of fish-cake that made everyone savour with much curiosity!

Grandma was rightfully the Queen for the Day, the Belle of the Ball and the Star of the Show!  She was central in the celebration, honoured from the start to the close of the event. 

Auspicious egg platter served at birthday luncheon
Many were moved with emotion to shed silent tears of joy and there were also lavish compliments for the attention to detail in the entire celebration.  We raised our glasses to toast grandma with love and appreciation and throughout the course of the meal, some of our boisterous relatives found every excuse to raise their glasses over and over again – to the point that no reason was needed for them to raise their glasses after all! 

Our celebration continued through the weekend when grandma was featured as The Real Champion in the cover story of NST Life & Times Sunday, 20 May 2012.  It was my privilege to honour her with a tribute for her long and eventful life.  Due to space constraints, many details were left out but enough was shared for readers to know that through her love and sacrifice, grandma achieved so much for her family.  Days ahead of the birthday weekend, I already received birthday greetings and congratulatory wishes on behalf of grandma and continued to receive feedback and well wishes after that article.  Thanks!  I appreciate every thought and message! 

Grandma's nieces sharing a toast with her, while
grandma's brother [Right] looks on
A week before the article was published, I coordinated (from JB) with Aunty Polly (in USJ) to prepare grandma for the photography session with NST photographer who found his way to their house (after losing his way but finally got directions to get there!)  At 100 years old, grandma is no longer predictable but thankfully, she cooperated with the photographer for a series of smart shots.  As the photographer clicked on when she was moved from her position indoors to the porch outside, grandma pointedly asked in Cantonese, “Cho meh koi kom tak han?  (Translated: Why is he so free?)  

I returned from the birthday celebration, feeling physically and mentally tired but absolutely euphoric.  What with my work schedule continuing on as usual, it was almost like I was burning my candle at both ends but yet I completed what I had to do on time.  It will be a welcome change when I can take a complete break to recharge my batteries but it does not look like it’s anytime now. 


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