Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


16 February 2012

TTT – Room (in my heart) and a view

1) Beautiful views

Eight years, seven months and four days ago, I came to Canberra and thought it a grey, lonely place. I couldn’t get over how abandoned it looked. How empty, lifeless. (It was a winter week night in Civic.)

But it’s hardly that. I just didn’t know where to look at the time.

We went to The Deck for afternoon tea yesterday. The sun was out, the grass was greener than I’d ever seen it, the waters were still and lovely. The cafe was empty save for the table of us, which meant we were treated to the most stunning view of the lake and Regatta Point. In air-conditioned comfort on a hot Summer’s day. Our babies, crawling and clapping at our feet, oblivious to the magnificent background they’ll one day inherit.

And I fell in love with Canberra all over again that afternoon.

NO PICTURE, though! What a pity!

2) Love notes

Read melancholic mooing. See loving, heartfelt comments. <3

3) Hello, friend

It’s the most natural thing, I realise. It’s such an easy trap to fall into. But with every new milestone I seem to reach in my adulthood, I see my friends less. It’s a two-way street. My timetable’s all different now, and the first few months with Arddun were busy as I tried to settle into my new role. But it’s almost like old friends don’t think to call you anymore when you reach a new stage of life, because they’ve already assumed you’d say no as you’re too busy. When actually, the opposite couldn’t be truer.

But then someone pinged me this week on Facebook, and this afternoon I found myself at Urban Pantry, thoroughly enjoying my linguine and the great company. And talking about non-mumsy things. And feeling HUMAN. A little bit of my old self, peeping through the laid-back jeans and wind-tossed hair. Before I was a mother, I was This Other Person. And she came out and had linguine today.

The mother of mall rats

I’m just walking the pram down the laundry aisle at Target, when I hear them.

The shrieking.

Two children playing catch or hide-and-seek or some fusion of both. Their little brother in a stroller, wailing because he is missing out. Their mother, deep in conversation with their grandmother over a pillow. (Seriously, lady. It’s Target. They’ll all go flat in a year.)

Without a word, I swing my pram with its precious, sleeping occupant around, and make a hasty escape to the bathroom section. Quick, quick… before they stampede over to –

Too late. A herd of tiny elephants comes running over. There’s shouts, an over-excited shriek that could break glass, except Target only stocks cheapies.

The pram jolts. I wince and wait for it. One thousand… two thousand…

Arddun awakes with a wail. It starts low, because it’s about to climb the decibel charts and stay at the #1 spot for about two weeks.

She’s at least half an hour early from her wake time. And she’s not happy about it.

Meanwhile, Mother and Grandmother have given up on the pillow and are now moving on to bathroom gear.

I make my exit.

Only to run into them again at the check-out, where they all end up at the cashier adjacent to mine.

Arddun is calm by now. She’s playing with her toes quietly. La-la-la, and holding onto both feet with both hands. Harmless.

Stroller Kid – the one who got left out earlier – takes one look at Arddun’s inner peace and shatters it completely with a sudden, belated shriek.

Another jolt. Arddun completely loses it. She yells so hard, her eyes tear up from the sheer force of her face-scrunch, and her head looks like it’s about to pop.

And the Mother, and the Grandmother. They stare at my bawling baby. And proceed to tut tut about how sensitive my baby is, and how this wouldn’t happen if she had siblings because babies with older siblings can sleep through anything.


I am so gobsmacked, I actually go blank. The only thing I can think to do is pick Arddun up and cuddle her. To her credit, she has more to say on the matter than I do, because every time she makes eye contact with Stroller Kid, she gives him the evil eye and yells at him.

And the Mother, and the Grandmother. They ask the cashier how many children she has (3) and whether she grew up with lots of siblings (yes, 5), and only child, eh? Nudge nudge. Obviously.

Traitorous mind still in a blank. No comeback. Blind-white fury building, but not quite sure why. Scowling so hard now, my unplucked, mumsy eyebrows are starting to ache. Only thing left to do is throw all purchases into my pram and stiffly wheel it out of Target while jiggling indignant baby on my left hip.

L’esprit de l’escalier. The afterwit – which isn’t very witty at all – is for me to have fronted both obnoxious women with, “I know deep down that you’re only saying this because you know your kids are feral today. You’re embarrassed. I get that. But if it wasn’t bad enough that you’ve chosen to patronise me, did you really have to INSULT MY BABY?!”

Except I really couldn’t have said that, because I remember being one of those kids, running around a shopping mall like a rodent on speed.

Yes. I was a mall rat.

Because Singapore is so stinking hot and humid, we spend most of our days hiding in underground shopping malls and paying for borrowed air-conditioning by pretending to buy things. When I was 9/10/11/12, my family used to swan off to a mall with close friends after Sunday morning worship. We’d have lunch together, perhaps dessert, and then there’d be window shopping for the grown ups. And the other kids and I would beg to go to Toys ‘R’ Us or Kids World. And the adults would let us go because they were probably hoping thinking that we’d spend the half hour or so calmly debating the finer merits of Mattel’s Crystal Barbie and Hasbro’s Transformers (first generation).

Not so.

We were playing catch or hide-and-seek or some fusion of both. I got really bummed out on the weeks I had to wear a dress, because it made climbing and crawling slower. The most impressive hiding place I remember was when the smallest of us climbed up a huge toy shelf and hid behind a row of overstuffed plush toy teddies. The stuff of legends, man.

Sales ladies used to scowl at us till I thought their eyebrows would fuse together from the heat of their killer stares.

So yes. It’d be hypocritical of me to get too narky with the Mother, the Grandmother, and their three little squealies.

But I admit I’ve been fantasising about following them home so we can climb into the Mother’s bedroom at 4am and have Arddun press her sweet little mouth into the Mother’s ear and go,


But she has three children. She should be used to that.

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