Birthday Joy

Pearly and mum hugging at her
surprise arrival at tea time!
My colleague, Jasmine, called to check if I have fallen off the face of the earth.  She was probably wondering because I did not send any articles for publication.  I told her I was taking a personal time-out to focus on my family as my siblings and I were planning a Thanksgiving celebration to commemorate our parents’ grand birthdays – dad’s 90th and mum’s 80th – and there was plenty to do to prepare for this event. 

Reassured that I was just preoccupied, Jasmine reminded me to share my family stories and she later sent a text that read: “You have a staunch following and your articles are a brilliant read.”  This is very encouraging especially coming from a colleague whose guts, I very much admire because her forte is in crime reporting.  It is certainly no bed of roses to work on horrific crime stories and thank you very much – I’m content with what I do.

Ten years ago, we held a joint celebration for our parents’ birthdays so ten years on, we aimed to do it a little differently.  In the early stages of our planning, Pearly, our second sister who lives in the UK, called to tell dad that she was unable to come.  However two weeks before the event, she emailed her siblings to say that she has her flights booked and we started the countdown for her arrival – which we kept secret from our parents!

Mum and dad blowing out their candles on cupcakes arranged in digits -
9 0 for dad and 8 0 for mum!
It was difficult to keep such an exciting secret and once or twice, I caught myself before I let it slip during discussions about the coming event.  Many years ago, we pulled off a similar surprise when I picked Pearly from the airport and had her phone dad at home from my mobile-phone and while they were still chatting, my sister walked into the house!  Imagine dad’s surprise when he saw Pearly in front of him while he thought he was speaking to her in the UK!  As we hugged this little secret to ourselves, we agreed that any tricks now may be too much of a shock for dad so we simply let Pearly walk in on our parents while they were seated at the table, having their daily afternoon tea!

Needless to say, mum and dad were stunned and speechless with joy and they gamely joined in the fun to keep Pearly’s presence a secret from the extended family until the Thanksgiving dinner.  In fact it was dad’s idea to have Pearly walk mum and dad into the banquet hall and give our guests a pleasant surprise.  Meanwhile, our parents were in for another thrill because arrangements were privately made to ferry our 100-year old grandma to JB and have her in the hall when they arrived!

Mum [Right] and her aunt in front of Government
quarters located along Jalan Waterworks
It turned out to be a most memorable and meaningful evening shared among relatives, our church family and some of our parents’ former colleagues.  It was pure nostalgia as old friends and family members met in a special reunion and time of reminiscing over good food.  With the help of modern technology, our nephews and nieces, who could not attend due to work and study commitments in Australia and the UK, sent their personal wishes to the grandparents through video recordings. 

The most unforgettable moments was when several church friends gave their tributes to mum and dad, recalling the early years when they first came to JB as young men in their 20’s. 

Mum [Right] and her aunt at the Thanksgiving dinner
Among other things, they appreciated how mum, a former midwife, helped them when their babies were born.  These children are now young adults with successful careers, some of them already married while several even have children of their own! 

Like our parents, the elderly among us are also advancing in age and it was very special for many of the senior folks to attend with the help of the younger generation.  Mum shares a very special bond with her aunt [grandma’s sister] who is just four years older and I learnt that when they were younger, she used to sew dresses for mum.  In fact, the evening gown which mum wore for her wedding banquet [held on the badminton court at 154, Jalan Ngee Heng!] was sewn by this grand-aunt. 

Double-dating at Istana Gardens in 1953;
Mum & dad [Left] with grand-aunt and grand-uncle
As they are about the same age, mum and her aunt started dating about the same time in the early 1950s.  From dad’s collection of old photos, taken mostly at JB’s iconic Istana Gardens, I saw that the two couples – mum and dad and grand-aunt and grand-uncle – used to double-date. It was indeed, very special for these two couples, now older and wiser, to be together again at this joyous celebration!

It was also meaningful for mum and dad to share this occasion with former colleagues, like Matron Tham Poh Choo, one of the trainers in Pupils Training School or PTS of the JB General Hospital in 1947.  Also Cyril Clark, who first worked with dad in the JB General Hospital and later in Kota Tinggi Hospital – where my two older sisters were born.  Nursing sister Wai Kwai May is no longer with us, but it was so thoughtful of her daughter, Grace and husband, Soon Hong, to come all the way from KL to join us. 

The foursome - older and wiser - at the Thanksgiving dinner

Mum and dad with [Standing L to R] Linda and Murugan Nair, Grace,
Aunty Terry, Aunty Poh Choo, Soon Hong and Uncle Cyril

My eldest sister, Ruby, with Uncle Cyril in front
of Hospital quarters in Kota Tinggi, 1954
Words cannot fully describe how significant it is for our family to share our joy with dear friends and relatives as we honoured our parents in such a Thanksgiving. 

I trust our guests are as encouraged as I am by the decade-long bonds of friendship and our parents’ exemplary lives. 

To mum and dad, Happy Birthday to you both – and many more birthdays to come!


Feedback Update:

Dear Peggy and Mr & Mrs Loh,

It was our pleasure to be there at the birthday celebration. If I may say it, the Loh family has been consistent, caring and contributing to the Lord's work not only in JB but elsewhere too.  The Lingam family has personally benefited from your kind deeds and thoughts.  Though our visits to JBGC has become far and few, we continue to pray for the people there.

With sincere thanks,
Charles & Siew Ying

Wow, Peggy, your article was so well-written I felt I was there with all of you!!  But my oh my, thank God you didn't give your mum and dad a heart attack with Pearly's trick!!  Yes, Happy Birthday to your mum and dad and many more birthdays to come!! 

God bless,


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