Festive season. The end of year and the beginning of another is a special time for me. Christmas continues to be my favourite holiday, but Chinese New Year is a close second. Family and friends who are not in Singapore often fly back at this time of year, so the months of December and January involve a whole lot of reunions and feasting. During this period, happy memories of past celebrations and present get-togethers collide in a happy, sweet mix.
This year is especially poignant because it’s the first proper CNY without dad presiding. He’s the central figure, the family stalwart, and relatives would come by to visit us because of him. This time, mum takes centrestage and it’s heartwarming to see dad’s relatives come to see her.
Yesterday, we visited Aunty Nancy who turns 90 this year. She is the only aunt left alive on my dad’s side that I am close to, and she’s also my Godma. Aunty Nancy is now wheelchair ridden and so frail, but she still is chatty and alert. Looking at her, I see living proof that beauty in a good woman does withstand the ravages of time.
I also found a gem on her wall, a family portrait of the Tsengs that is at least 65 years old. In black and white, the sharp, almost Eurasian features of my family stare back at me. Aunts and uncle, still young and fresh, their lives stretched before them in the hope of a new life after the horror of the Second World war. Their lives were hard. A philandering father and the war meant that they were always struggling to make ends meet, but as a family they were very close.
This closeness is their greatest legacy. Two generations on, we still meet. Everyone is busy, but the Chinese got it right in defining one day when family should get together to celebrate new beginnings.
Happy Chinese New Year!