Mr Baker I am not

graphic J
if he lived in the 50s, maybe he would aspire to be known as Graphic J, the Design Uncle

One of the best things about being off from work (other than just physically NOT being at work) is being able to have a leisurely lunch with my mom.

She retired from her administrative job 5 years ago after spending more than 30years with the same company. A quiet, diminutive woman - not someone you would take notice of (although in her youth, I was told, she had flirted with being a, all 1.57m of her). But each time she tells me something about her life, there's always a story or two worth remembering.

So over a plate of Rojak Bandung, J, my mom and I were indulging in some nostalgia and lamenting how all the "wet markets" in HDB estates have been upgraded, such that they are now these neat rows of individual shops that, when shut, are transformed into just large metal boxes. A trip to the market no longer required avoiding puddles or even entire lanes of smelly water (probably from the fishmongers) overflowing from the shallow drains.

It was then that I asked her what happened to Jalong Sing (read Mdm Jalong - she sold towels, hankerchiefs and other sundry goods at a wet market near my grandma's), followed by the question: "So what exactly does Jalong mean?" which yielded this little ramble down memory lane;

Mom: Jalong just means thread and needles and all the stuff that she sold lor. [a-matter-a-factly]

J: Haha. [laughs, because he likes to]

Y: I see. It's the same as all the ang mo people with surnames like Baker or Chimney [turns to J] - like if you were a Baker, everyone calls you Mr Baker, and your son may just follow in your footsteps, and everyone calls him Mr Baker too...blah blah blah, then 2 hundred years later, your great great great grandson who is a botanist, will still be called Mr Baker!

J: [silently, forming these words in his mind: show off, smartypants]

Mom: When I was growing up ah, we live in the kampong, the squatter area lah, then one of the shophouses in front of our squatter used to sell wooden clogs. I remember everyone calls her Cha Kia Sor and her husband Cha Kia Chek [i.e. Aunt Clog and Uncle Clog]. I even remember their shophouse number - 958. We stayed in the squatter so we had no address, so all our mail went to shophouse 956. One of our neighbours in the kampong would buy these huge logs, chop it up and with an axe make clogs. He would sell it to the Cha Kia Sor who would paint it and attach the strap to the finished clog.

[She takes a sip of coffee, but feeling high on the past, continues her description.]

Mom: Back then everyone kept their doors open. So we would always walk through Cha Kia Sor's shophouse for a shortcut from the main road to the kampung. One day, I remember this Cha Kia Sor running out of the house, shouting at Cha Kia Chek and throwing clogs at him. [laughs] They had such a big fight. This Cha Kia Chek is so old already and he still wants sex, so she cannot take it! She was so angry! [laughs] They have so many children, I remember...


monk said…
go, mom!
Anonymous said…
oooh ur mum got really interesting stories. :)
ampulets said…
yah, she does have some interesting stories, especially of her youth. And like many of us, once she started working, those stories stopped - only random gossip about her colleagues or their children. It's almost as if she/we stopped collecting memories...and maybe this is why we need to escape into cinema and books - and daydreams.

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