I don’t write about you much. I think about you every day. You’re never really far, anyway. You shadow every waking thought, lace every decision I make like a fragrance I’ll never want to forget, except I’ve already forgotten your smell.
They say it’s always the first thing that goes.
All I know is that you smelled like Comfort. And Home. And Unconditional Love. Big, fierce, protective, passionate, ain’t-nothing-that-can-tear-me-away-from-you-except-death love.
I don’t write about you because tears prickle the eyes easily. Still. It’s been 8 years. You’d think I’d be used to your long trip away from me by now.
Some of my earliest memories of you include walking into a crowded auditorium for a gospel rally. Of begging you to let me play with the white pet rabbit at the YMCA. Of running through tunnels there until you tell me it’s time to leave.
And then taking the bus home, walking up two long flights of stairs on short, spindly legs, ordering my favourite mee pok da (the one with the 炸云吞 you never let me get precisely because it’s deep-fried) and walking home together, hand in hand.
I remember bus rides to Orchard Road, falling asleep on your lap, your maroon patent leather handbag my hard and bumpy pillow. Sometimes, I’d actually fall asleep amidst the roar of the engine in the 64, the wind blowing overhead and teasing your hair, my legs already too long to tuck underneath my chin without jabbing across the narrow aisle.
I miss our talks long into the night, where I’d tell you almost everything about the boys I loved but knew I wouldn’t marry.
I miss, I miss, I miss sharing with you. Curled up on your narrow single bed in the dead of night.
To this day, it fills me with extraordinary pride that my friends liked you. Even loved you enough to happily lunch and dinner with you on their own. I never needed to play chaperone.
I loved that they saw you as a person and a friend, and not just as my mother. It’s totally #parentinggoalz to be that mother for my own children’s friends one day, but I suspect we are quite different people and you were way cooler.
The generosity of your spirit and your heart for others… They weren’t just turned towards the people you love like me and Shawn & Andrea and Ah-yee.
I wish I know for certain that you know how well things turned out for the many, many, many children you educated and helped and befriended. Who are now grown and married and seem well-adjusted enough. I bet you’d have known how they were doing. Your stash of greeting cards are still in my stationery sideboard.
I love that you kept a Filofax of greeting cards you’d bought a year in advance to send to people you liked and love. Like, carefully curated greeting cards filed by month for births and marriages and birthdays and anniversaries and I-love-you-just-because.
I love and ache over how people still remember you fondly and with deep sadness about your passing. How they would have liked to grow old with you.
I wear your clothes now. I’m now at the age you were when you wore what you still had hanging in your cupboard when you died. It doesn’t necessarily bring you closer to me when I wear your clothes because I look so different in them. It’s hardly like looking in the mirror and seeing you. But there are times when I realise that when you were my age and wearing what I’m wearing, I was already 20. I’d stare at myself in your clothes and the enormity of what you accomplished comes at me wave after shuddering wave.
You were a rockstar.
We had so little and yet we were pretty content, all things considered. I now live in an insanely large house compared to what we had. And just like back then, my life today is enough and also NOT enough.
I miss you like a tree without most of its roots. I’m still growing (sideways now.. fatter… you would have said something about that, I’m sure).
But boy, do I miss you.