When I was a kid, Chinese New Year was an exciting time for me. 25 years on, it still is something that I really look forward to, but in a slightly different way.
While it used to be about the new clothes, the ang pows and the chance to play with the cousins, I now love having the excuse to hang out with my family. During this time, the kids can all lounge around lazily without the parents making us feel guilty about doing nothing and just catch up with news of our lives. Broken relationships, new partners, unreasonable customers – all these and more come tumbling out as we sprawl onto any comfortable surface, happily sipping our well-loved home brewed teh si and munching on bak kwa. Occasionally, we would get free entertainment by the nephews as they try to get our attention through performing monkey antics and spouting outrageous remarks that go along the lines of “see, I told you Mummy passed me all her blur DNA”.
CNY, in other words, is a time for renewing bonds and serves as a reminder of how strong our family is and how lucky we are to love one another so much in such an unconditional way.
Because, no matter what, you know that your loud and doting Hainanese family will always be there for you, even when you make mistakes. Yes, they will see the wrongs but no matter what, there will never be grudges held, and they will always see you as the kid whose hand got caught between the lift doors, causing her granny to faint in fright and her mother to turn blue with anxiety and fear. You will always be the little baby whom they fussed about like a pretty porcelain doll, the toddler who stood by the gate waving them goodbye as they went to school and then waited patiently by the gate to welcome them home, and the girl who took an eternity to finish her food that Granny, who was feeding her, fell asleep face forward into the bowl of rice.
We’ve been through so much together in the past – the loss of fathers and husbands, the demise of an independent and loving matriarch, breakups, marital woes, career slumps, depression, anything you can think of. And now that the next generation has arrived, we will still be together in the future, nurturing the young ‘uns as they become better people than we are.
Yes, no matter what happens, I will never be alone. We may share different surnames but there will always be someone there for me, who will never let me fall.
Because we are family.