22 June 2019
For many of us childhood outings with grandmas usually centered around going to school, going to the market & temple visits.
On mornings if I woke up late & missed the market outing with my grandma, I would stand by the kitchen window of our Prince Charles Square flat and watch for her return as she briskly crossed the bridge on the Alexandra Canal on her way home.
Once she had to cross the canal twice just to go to the market to make sure she got me the clay monkey figurine that I really liked. Things bought for me must not look like it was meant for my brother.
When I got older, her trips became infrequent.
As she aged and we moved to a new flat, my grandma became more housebound & more isolated.
She was always standing by the window and waiting for us to come home.
By then I was occupied with my own life & thought very little of her loneliness.
Many afternoons I saw her sitting by the stove silently, but I would never risk asking what she was thinking or feeling lest it gave her a chance to criticise my mother again. Likewise I learnt not to ask my parents what was on their mind.
That was how Silence invaded our home.
This time when I landed in Xiamen, I wanted to be able to talk freely. So I placed my grandma’s silver belt by the window sill of the hotel room facing the sea. I told her we would be making the crossing to her Kinmen Island in a few days’ time.
When I got the ferry ticket at Wutong Harbour, I told her.
As the ferry departed for Shuitou Harbour in Kinmen, I placed her possession by the window of the boat & showed her the waves that she rode on nearly 100 years ago.
A drizzle had begun when we landed on Shuitou Harbour, Kinmen Island. A harbour staff by the name of Mr Zhang Hui Ren (张惠人) quickly came to our assistance by getting us a trolley for our luggage. He showed us great Kinmen hospitality by supervising our customs clearance and looked for our B&B host who was there to pick us up.
He reminded us to let the counter staff know on our return trip that I would need help with luggage and boarding. Everyone was in a chatty mood. Even the security personnel with the cute beagle were happy to see us. I wanted to hug the dog but controlled myself.
The sun shone brilliantly the next day and the next 2 days as I walked the streets of my grandma’s hometown, Houpu & visited her ancestral shrine in Pan Shan.
On the morning before my journey to Pan Shan (15 June) I placed her silver belt on the balcony ledge of the B&B we were at.
Below my unit, mammas and pappas scooted about with kids on their vespas. Above me the sun shone brightly and the birds tweeted. The air was cool & crisp.
I felt the sun’s warmth on my face & neck as I gave thanks.
After I had told my grandma about our plan for the day, a butterfly bearing markings of brown, white and orange landed on her silver belt. I held my breath as it lingered briefly before taking off again.
The journey ahead for the rest of the day was filled with wonderful sights, heartfelt conversations and unexpected discoveries, assuring me that the longevity of Love continues outside time.