A double 80th birthday celebration


In these days of modern technology, my cousins and I, who are based in the UK, Australia, Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, with me in Johor Baru, managed to connect and organize a surprise birthday celebration held in USJ, for their mother and father.


The birthday girl, Aunty Polly, and the
birthday boy, Uncle Mok, celebrated their 80th

It was an initiative of cousin Bernice and her sister Gillian who wished to spring a surprise on their mother, my Aunty Polly, on her 80th birthday.


As Uncle Mok, the father of cousin Shaun and his brother Ryan, will also celebrate his 80th birthday this June, they decided to plan a double birthday celebration.


Using an excel spreadsheet to list out the To-Do items, Bernice took the lead to assign various tasks to her sister and cousins to make the restaurant reservation, select the menu and send out invitations to relatives and friends.


Cousin Karen provided live music
entertainment for the celebration

When my family received their invite, I thanked Bernice and shared with her my reasons for not being likely able to travel to USJ for this celebration.


While Bernice could appreciate why I delayed my reply, I did not hesitate to help with what she asked for, which was to prepare a Ten Questions fun quiz and visual presentations of photographs each, for Uncle and Aunty.


It was my pleasure to help with these tasks as I had first-hand experience, while I was growing up in grandfather’s house and had witnessed the early years when our two younger aunties started dating.


Later on, I also had the privilege to be at their weddings and was there when their new babies were being cared for by grandmother the traditional way, during my aunts’ confinement months.


Bernice was also aware that I have a good collection of old photos and thought that it would be fun to share a visual presentation with the family and friends gathered for the joint birthday celebration.


Aunty Polly and Uncle Mok cutting
birthday cakes, with their spouses
My cousins work with global companies so it was not unusual for them to turn up at their parents’ homes from time to time as they could work-from-home according to the various time zones.


Meanwhile, I found a good reason to turn up in USJ where Bernice’s parents live so I arranged to go to the MPH warehouse in Belakong to collect a stock of my books.


Since I was in the neighbourhood and as Bernice was back, I told Aunty Polly that I would just hang out with her after we had collected my books from the warehouse.


In fact, Bernice and I had gone to the restaurant to recce the space, confirm the menu and returned again to test the screens in the banquet hall to ensure that our visual presentations should work smoothly.


Aunty Polly with Uncle Steven
and their lovely daughters

That same weekend, the guest room was made ready because Aunty was expecting the arrival of cousin Malcolm’s wife, Yeen, who was coming from Sydney with a stopover in USJ for the weekend, enroute to her mother’s place in Brunei next week.


When Yeen arrived from the airport, Aunty warmly welcomed her in. But when her younger daughter, Gillian who was based in Sydney, came in after, Aunty was clearly shocked.


Gillian’s father was equally stunned to see her, obviously thrilled and rather emotional.


I guess the presence of so many dear ones at the same time prompted my Aunty to suggest to her daughters to hold a dinner celebration in advance for her birthday.


Her daughters took the cue and did not hesitate to agree to invite us and a few close friends to join in the celebration arranged for Saturday night.


Uncle Mok and Aunty Sylvia
with the Mok family

This was a plus point because Aunty would then dress appropriately to go out for such a celebratory gathering.


It was, however, quite a different situation with the Mok family because cousin Shaun, who had the task of inviting his father out to dinner that night, opened the subject by asking him what he would like to eat.


And because this doting grandfather knew that his grand-daughters enjoyed Japanese cuisine, he replied, “Japanese!”


This created a bit of a complication because it was usually a casual dine-out in the neighbourhood so Uncle just wore his shorts and T-shirt, and was ready to go out.


It was awkward but they had to send him back in with a request to please change into a shirt and long trousers outfit because they were going to dine at a better restaurant.


Photo studio shot of Aunty Polly
and Uncle Steven while dating

While all this was going on, Bernice and I had already arrived at the restaurant to receive the guests who were requested to arrive ahead of time so that all should be in the banquet hall to await the arrival of the birthday girl and birthday boy.


As arranged, cousin Karen arrived with her mother. Karen, a professional musician, was quick set up her keyboard and provided live music entertainment for the celebration.


In a short space of time, many hands helped to arrange the door gifts and set up the screens, all ready for the visual presentation later on.


Later I learnt that there was a furious exchange of phone messages among the cousins and the drivers as the two families headed towards the restaurant with the birthday girl and birthday boy, in a countdown of the distance away and the estimated time of arrival.


I guess it was not unusual for them to meet each other at the entrance because the two families often dined together.


Uncle Mok and Aunty Sylvia
during their dating days

But I do believe that the birthday girl and birthday boy were pleasantly surprised when they entered the banquet hall and saw the smiling faces of their friends and relatives gathered there.


The situation then can simply be described as chaotic when the birthday girl and birthday boy moved among their guests in the banquet hall to exchange greetings and well-wishes.


The loud exclamations and happy reunion among friends and family members was simply heart-warming. Whew! It looked like we managed to pull off this surprise quite successfully!


When we settled down for the start of the banquet dinner, Uncle Mok was surrounded by members of the Mok family and his good friends, while Aunty Polly was with her close friends and two of her sisters, among other family members.


As the meal progressed, the celebration continued with the Ten Questions fun quiz, first for Uncle Mok, followed with the quiz on Aunty Polly.


One for the album: Happy 80th Birthday

The Ten Questions quiz was just for a laugh from answering the multiple-choice questions and for everyone to get to know Uncle and Aunty better.


The laughs went on with the visual presentation that took us down the proverbial Memory Lane through viewing a collection of valuable and rare old photos.


I thought that the lively interaction during my live commentary for the presentation was proof of the strong bond and special familiarity among these family members and close friends.


The dinner menu ended with a platter of traditional longevity noodles and a dessert of Chinese longevity steamed buns designed in the shape of peaches. After the cake-cutting ceremony, we enjoyed a second dessert of two delicious cakes.


This was followed by a photography session to capture the precious moments when two dear people celebrated their 80th birthday this June.


With the Awesome Foursome to
arrange a surprise celebration

The celebration drew to a close with the presentation of gifts to Uncle Mok and Aunty Polly in a meaningful and memorable event.


After it was over, Bernice’s father asked with much curiosity, “How did you do it?”


It was with much effort and coordination from way across the globe, through the use of social media and modern technology, among the siblings and cousins who were committed to making this surprise celebration happen.


Thanks to the Awesome Foursome, for letting me be a part of this double 80th birthday celebration in June 2023.

No comments:

Post a Comment