4 Aug 2021
I was 9 years old when I wrote my first letter. In Chinese. It was addressed to my dad who was then working in Bali. The letter was full of mundane details of school & home.
And my dad would write back in his beautiful handwriting in bright blue ink.
I didn’t understand everything he wrote, but I could touch his words and feel them by running my fingers over the paper. For my dad wrote with a heavy hand, causing the chinese characters to sit solidly on the faint blue lines of the airmail letter paper.
Was he writing with a BIC ball point pen? Did he pen his thoughts to his daughter during his day off in the workers’ quarters?
And the content of his letter? Equally boring instructions that a primary 3 kid can understand – study hard, listen to your mom & grandma, don’t quarrel with your brother etc.
But my dad also wrote simply about the beauty of paddy fields, the volcanoes, buffalo horn carvings and promises of gifts upon his return.
I believe those words of my father had forever ignited in me a sense of wonderment for peoples & cultures beyond my ethnic group and landscapes outside Singapore.
Even though my dad’s letters were lost years ago to overly zealous spring cleaning, his words of lapis lazuli blue continue to dance in my head till this day.
A few weeks back, my brother showed me a picture of the moth that he had picked up from the floor. He thought the moth’s colours were really unique. I thought they reminded me of our dad’s batik. 😊
Today my dad would have been 83 years old.
Sometimes we remember our elders not for the inheritance or titles they can bestow, but for simpler gifts such as letters or even fabrics that evoke childhood memories of care & innocence.