Thursday, August 08, 2013

More precious than rubies

Grandma and Grandpa by Taking5
My grandparents, soon after they were married.
Cut out of a larger photo.
My Grandmother (who I last wrote about here) passed away on 1 May 2013, some five months ago. Had she lived, today would have been her 92nd birthday.

My grandmother did not have an easy life at the beginning. She was born in a large Peranakan family, one with perhaps too many children and definitely too many girls. So her mother's sister adopted her and raised her as her own - one of a family of six (including one other adopted daughter who was no blood relative). She was a clever girl, and completed her Form 5 at Victoria Street Convent.

Upon leaving school, she married my grandfather, a good 14 years older than herself. She had her first child soon after - she's likely in early stages of pregnancy in this photo. She would have two more children before she was 21 years old. My mother was her third child, born during the first few months of the Japanese occupation of Singapore. By that time, my grandfather had been interred in Changi Prison. My grandmother was left to look after her three children throughout the war, alone. Fortunately, the family was reunited after the war, all intact.

The family's troubles were not over. During the Maria Hertogh riots, my grandfather (being a Eurasian) was in danger and had to go into hiding. My grandmother, again pregnant with her fifth and last child, was again left to look after her children, the fourth child not even a year old, and her oldest son ill in bed and unable to be moved. That evening, men came looking for my grandfather. My grandmother met them at the door and firmly told them that my grandfather was not there, and asked them to go away.

My grandmother was as fierce as a lioness, a true Leo defending her children. Capable and practical, she managed the household well, and ensured her children were properly fed and appropriately clad. My mother remembers her searching for white ties for my uncles (then young boys of around 7-8 years) to wear at their First Communion, and when she could not find suitable ties, sewing them herself.

She was a supportive wife. My grandfather ran for election in 1959, and she was his election agent. In his old age, she nursed him devotedly until he passed away many years ago.

My grandmother was a good cook. Brought up in the true "agak-agak" school of cooking, she had a well-trained palette and was able to distinguish flavours of dishes and reproduce them in her own kitchen.

She was also a warm and loving grandmother. I remember many happy occasions in her home, at Christmas (when she played Mrs Claus) and at family celebrations. I remember afternoons running around the garden with my brother and cousins, coming only when she announced that it was time for tea. There was always something good to eat, at my grandmother's house.

Grandma had a long and happy life, with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all continuing to visit her to the end of her days. Happy Birthday, Grandma, and God Bless.

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