Monday, January 30, 2012

Congratulations, Aunty Lena. You outlived everybody 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.

7 comments:

Pat said...

I love it when you go all nostalgic on us, Ant. Lovely post.

It is consoling to think that your Aunt Lena has been spared from realising that she's the last survivor of the siblings.

Antares said...

@Pat - When the dead wish to be remembered they always find a way to remind us. In this instance, randomly finding this vintage group portrait on my study floor prompted me to scan it at once and share it online. It's charged with untold stories! :-)

zorro said...

Time I did some scanning too...but it can wait.

Virginia said...

WOW what a fantastic photo ..yes I totally agree with archive quality of all those old prints ..its all digital now, it's hard to even find a place that will process photos the old fashioned way ... its all inkjet printing. Your Mother looks so beautiful and your Dad very handsome indeed.. you look like your Dad +++ It's cute the way the girls are all smiling and the boys look a little serious. Such history and such great memories it brought back to you .. I believe that the photo escaped the filing cabinet for a reason ..perhaps you just needed to think about your family today ... its good to remember where we came from .. and as much as we all eventually go on our own path ...they are our roots. Thanks so much for sharing a most beautiful photo and your lovely memories ... sending lots of love Virg xxoo ...

srs said...

a tall tree has deep roots

el-f said...

Priceless photo indeed! I saw Aunt Lena a few months ago at her home. She had a smile for all of us, even though she may not quite remember names and faces now at her age. A dignified grand old lady and still very much the matriarch in the family.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful photo indeed and a heart warming description of a family.