Monday, January 30, 2012

Congratulations, Aunt Lena, you outlived everyone else!

L-R: Uncle Hong Wai, Aunt Yolande, My Dad, My Mum, Uncle Hong Heng, Aunt Lena, Uncle Hong Kiong.
Photographed in J.B. Public Gardens @ 1936

Earlier today I almost stepped on this vintage photograph which must have escaped from my filing cabinet. Looking at it made me realize how well the old-fashioned bromides survive the ravages of time. This print, measuring 4 X 3 inches, still scans beautifully with no loss of resolution after 76 years in the humid tropics!

Hard to believe the boy in shorts was my youngest uncle, Hong Wai, who became a dentist like his father Lee Kiang Choon. Hong Wai was the only sibling to be sent to Australia where he took up fencing and was a champion at one time.

Yolande was the eldest sibling and lived at 77 Emerald Hill Road, Singapore, almost her entire adult life. I remember the bonsai trees that adorned her small garden screened off from a busy thoroughfare by a high wall. She also had a pet cockatoo whose company I greatly enjoyed. Too bad I've lost touch with my cousins Dennis and Jeffery (Dennis could play the piano with a tennis ball and bought a bank in California with money he made in real estate).

My father Lee Hong Wah was always a well-dressed man, even in his early youth. My guess is that he was around 20 when this photo was taken - and my mother Dai Moon Loy must have been only 18. They were a beautiful couple, I do admit!

Uncle Hong Heng was the oldest male sibling and spent his retirement years hunched over a transistor radio following market trends (he was a bit of a gnome, enjoyed counting his money); he lived across the road from my parents' house in Kebun Teh Park (which, incidentally, is for sale in case anyone is interested in buying some property in Johore Baru).

Aunt Lena was extremely fond of my dad and dreamed of going on a long ocean cruise with him after my mother died on 14 July 1995. Unfortunately my dad was too much of a homebody and never took up her offer. Lena had the good fortune to marry two rich men in succession and was always generous with her family members. Although Lena has managed to outlive all her siblings, she probably is unaware of the fact, as she has had Alzheimer's for many years, after recovering from a stroke. The last few times I saw her at family reunions Lena was smiling like a baby at everyone around her - so I guess she has been spared any mental distress.

Uncle Hong Kiong was the least academically inclined among the siblings and opted for a career as a handyman, undertaking household repairs and living a simple unassuming life. I liked him and his family a lot because they tended to be the least judgmental of all my relatives down south.

In any case, looking at the photo triggered a cascade of long-unvisited childhood memories. Everyone in the photo except Aunt Lena is now long dead. We lived such different lives, I can't say I know my uncles and aunts that well - but I most certainly am grateful they were part of my family constellation and I send them wholehearted blessings and love as we spin and spiral into the new octave of evolution.